Rapid Reaction: Rays 5, Yankees 2

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
10:18
PM ET


Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: That despite Joe Girardi's best efforts to help his friends in Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays have pulled even in the wild card race with just two games to play. A conglomerate of Yankees relief pitchers couldn't stop the Rays, and a lineup made up of mostly Yankees regulars couldn't manage more than two runs off "Big Game" James Shields, who fell one out short of throwing his 12th complete game of the season. And the Rays get to do it all over again on Wednesday, when the Yankees will once more have to cobble nine innings out of an all-bullpen staff.

No, No, Noesi: Hector Noesi, tonight's emergency starter, did nothing to save the bullpen, lasting just two innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Noesi was followed by Raul Valdes, a candidate to be the second lefty out of the bullpen in the postseason. Valdes did himself no favors, allowing an inherited runner to score on Johnny Damon's RBI single and surrendering a long home run to Kelly Shoppach.

Cannot be stopped: Robinson Cano got the Yankees off to a good start, crushing a Shields fastball in the first inning over the center field fence -- No. 28 on the season, and RBI No. 117. Cano also knocked in the Yanks' second run, RBI No. 118, with a third-inning single. That was about it for the Yankees' offense, which managed just four other hits and never got a runner to third base against Shields.

Qu'est-ce qu'il a dit? That is French for "What did he say?'' and it is what we are all wondering about the fifth-inning conversation between Russell Martin and home plate umpire Paul Schreiber that got Martin ejected from the game. Since it followed two straight walks by Phil Hughes, it is safe to assume the topic of discussion was the strike zone.

Hughes him wisely: Speaking of Hughes, last year's 18-game-winning No. 2 starter made his first appearance in his new role, as a middle reliever, and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing the two fifth-inning walks and a sixth-inning double to Matt Joyce.

Opposite Day: Former catcher Jorge Posada, playing first base to give Mark Teixeira a rest, threw two runners out at home plate, albeit mostly due to boneheaded baserunning. In the first inning, B.J. Upton tried to score from third on Ben Zobrist's grounder to first and was easily gunned down at home to complete an unusual 3-2 double play; in the third, an even more bizarre double play resulted when Damon got picked off at first and Evan Longoria tried to sneak home during the rundown. He, too, was cut down by Posada.

Good morning, fellas: After Sunday night's 14-inning, 5-hour-plus game against the Red Sox, the Yankees arrived in Tampa after 4 a.m. and did not arrive at their hotel until nearly 5.

What's next: The fading Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.02), who probably has no shot to make a start in the ALDS, gets one more chance to impress Girardi, facing righty Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.90) on Tuesday night, first pitch at 7:10 p.m.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146