Ivan Nova's last two starts certainly were not exactly "great". He had his shortest outing of the year against the Tigers going 5.1 innings, while giving up 6 runs, but the offense came through with 7 runs so that Ivan could avoid his first loss in a long time. Unfortunately, in Nova's next start, the offense gave him nothing. He surrendered 5 runs to the Orioles in 6.1 innings, and the Yankee bats didn't even score once, giving Ivan his first loss in his last 20 starts.
So how would Ivan respond?
Ben Zobrist led off the game with a line-drive single, but Nova responded by striking out Carlos Pena. The next hitter, BJ Upton, worked the count full before swinging and missing strike 3. And on that pitch Russell Martin was able to throw out Zobrist who tried to steal 2nd base. Nova then got the next 11 batters out, before Jeff Keppinger hit one just out of reach of Derek Jeter, giving him a single. Will Rhymes hit a single right after that, but Sean Rodriguez was left wanting when he swing and missed a slider for strike three. Solo shots by Jose Molina and Luke Scott gave the Rays a couple of runs, but they weren't able to get any more than that off of Nova.
Rafael Soriano, the new set-up man for the Yankees, gave up a run in the 8th inning after a triple and wild pitch. However strikeouts to Pena, Upton, and Scott ended the 8th. Enter David Robertson for his first save opportunity after we lost Rivera for the season. To nobody's surprise Robertson loaded the bases thanks to a walk, a single, and another walk. And who came to the plate for the Rays? Carlos Pena. Not the guy Yankee fans wanted to see. Carlos was 0-for-4 with 3 Ks coming into that at bat, so plenty of people were probably saying he was due. But five pitches into the at bat Pena watched a fastball for strike three, giving Houdini his first save of the season.
Six Yankee hitters had one base hit in the game, but it was two solo home runs off the bat of Raul Ibanez that was most impressive. Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira pitched in with an RBI a piece, helping give the Yankees the win in the series opener.
Zobrist led off the previous game with a single, but that wasn't good enough for him. No, he led off this game with a double down the right field line. Phelps then walked Carlos Pena, leading me to think he was going to pitch his way out of the rotation, making Girardi's decision on who to remove for Pettitte easy. Even after getting BJ Upton to fly out, and Matt Joyce to ground out, he walked Luke Scott to load the bases. This caused Larry Rothchild to pay the mound a visit, something you don't want to see in the 1st inning. I don't know what he said to Phelps, but Will Rhymes grounded out to end the inning without the Rays scoring.
David Phelps had 1-2-3 innings in the 2nd and 3rd, and only allowed a single to Joyce in the 4th. Phelps got into trouble again in the 5th, but channeled David Robertson and got out of that too. Phelps was more effficient in this start that his last, but his pitch count was still getting up there after giving up a double to Elliot Johnson with two outs in the 6th. Girardi ended up pulling David, and Boone Logan got Sean Rodriguez to ground out. Rafael Soriano came in in the 8th inning, and immediately gave up a single to BJ Upton. A throwing error by Robbie Cano gave the Rays men on 1st and 2nd with no outs, but a strikeout, ground out, and fly out ended the 8th.
Robertson's 2nd save opportunity started off badly, as he gave up back-to-back singles before a walk to Ben Zobrist loaded the bases with no outs. Carlos Pena got another chance against D-Rob, but struck out yet again. I started thinking David would get a ground ball to end the game on a double play, but BJ Upton had other ideas as he hit a deep fly ball to right field, scoring Sean Rodriguez on a sac fly. Although he'd already blown the save, it looked like Robertson would avoid the loss as he started off Matt Joyce with a couple of called strikes. Robertson threw one in the dirt for ball one, and Joyce fouled off a 4th straight curveball. David went with a fastball for pitch #5, and Joyce was waiting for it, blasting a 3-run home run over Swisher's head.
Although ARod, Cano, and Swisher had 2 hits a piece, while Jeter, Ibanez, and Martin added in hits of their own, the Yankees couldn't put up more than one run. The #RISPFAIL hashtag came back to haunt the team, as they went 0-for-8 with RISP, leaving a total of 20 men on the bases. And even though the Yankees did have 9 hits in the game, only Cano was able to hit something better than a single. Raul Ibanez hit a single after Nick Swisher led off the bottom of the 9th with a K, but Russell Martin and Dewayne Wise hit line drives right at 'em for the 2nd and 3rd outs, giving the Rays the comeback win.
Although he gave up 8 runs over his last 3 starts, CC Sabathia went 8 innings in each of them. On top of that, CC struck out 21 batters against only 3 walks in those starts as well. So the guy that labored through 6 innings, giving up a total of 9 runs, in his first two starts is gone. The Workhorse is back, and took the mound in the rubber match of the series.
Eduardo Nunez booted a ball in the 1st inning, allowing Sean Rodriguez to score an unearned run. Then, in the very next inning, another error by Nunee led to another unearned run. I'm going to take a closer look at Eduardo Nunez, to see if he has any value in the field, or if he's a DH-only who doesn't quite hit well enough to be a DH.
Anyway, Sabathia went into cruise control after the 2nd inning, as the Rays were barely able to put anybody on base. After the 2nd inning Tampa could only muster 3 singles and a walk, while one of those singles was erased right away by a double play. In the 6th inning CC got Brandon Guyer, Carlos Pena, and Elliot Johnson to all strike out swinging. The big guy ended up giving the Yankees another 8 inning start, his 4th in a row, while not allowing a single earned run, striking out 10 and only walking one.
The Yankee bats were facing David Price in this one. Price has a 3.35 ERA so far in his MLB career, including an impressive 2.35 going into this game in 2012. He actually faced the Yankees in the Rays 2nd game of the year, and went 6.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs off of 5 hits and 4 walks. Although David was able to complete the 7th inning this time around, he gave up 5 runs off of 11 hits and 3 walks. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano hit home runs off of Price, while Rodriguez and Nunez contributed a couple hits a piece. What I, and surely all Yankee fans, were really happy about was the team's 3-for-9 performance with RISP.
Rafael Soriano gave up a run on just one hit. That hit came off the bat of Elliot Johnson, who then stole 2nd base. Elliot was able to score after moving to 3rd base on a groundout by Matt Joyce, then went home when Will Rhymes grounded out. But Zobrist flied out to CF to end the game, giving the Yankees the series victory.
Jake Taylor Award*
Robinson Cano - 6/11, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 HR, 2 2B
Mark Teixeira - 1/10, 1 RBI, 10 LOB
Rick Vaughn Award*
CC Sabathia - Game 3: 8 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
David Robertson - Game 2: .2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
vs. Mariners 5/11 - 5/13
*The awards are named after one of the best baseball movies of all time... Major League.
Jake Taylor Award - Awarded to the most valuable position player. Named after the hard-nose veteran catcher that, despite making the league minimum, was the heart and soul of the 1989 American League East winning Cleveland Indians.
Gentry Award - Awarded to the least valuable position player. Named after the very first man cut from the 1989 Cleveland Indians, #47 Gentry. A man so insignificant he wasn't even given a first name.
Rick Vaughn - Awarded to the best pitcher in the series. This one is, of course, named after the "Wild Thing". The man that made Clu Haywood look silly in the division deciding game.
Kelner Award - Awarded to the worst pitcher in the series. Named after the Opening Day starter for the '89 Indians. Not a good game for Mr. Kelner, as Indians' announcer Harry Doyle famously quipped "thank God" after Kelner left the game. And yet another bad player without a first name.