Rapid Reaction: Rays 8, Yankees 7
September, 29, 2011
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
Recap | Box score | Photos
What it means: Be careful what you wish for, because even though the Red Sox are out, the Rays are in -- and right now, the Rays may be more dangerous. Evan Longoria's 12th-inning walkoff home run off Scott Proctor caps probably the most thrilling game of the season, a nearly five-hour monster that was important to just one team but was played as if it was the seventh game of the World Series by both. Now, the Yankees may have to see the Rays again in the ALCS. Gulp!
Tremendous game, tremendous worry: The Yankees' bullpen, considered a strength going into the playoffs, may not be as solid as we thought. Two of the pitchers the Yankees will depend upon most in the postseason, Boone Logan and Luis Ayala melted down in the eighth and allowed the Rays to make a game of it after falling behind 7-0. Then, Cory Wade, another 'pen stalwart, gave up the game-tying homer to Dan Johnson in the ninth. By the time Proctor, who is on no one's postseason roster, got into the game, it really didn't matter anymore.
Bring on the Tigers: And in other news, the Yankees' Division Series opponent will be the Detroit Tigers, meaning the Yankees get to face Justin Verlander twice in five games (if necessary).
Ay-Ay-Ay: Called in to put out an eighth-inning brushfire -- bases loaded, none out --Luis Ayala walked in one run, hit a batter to force in another, allowed a third to score on a sac fly, and then surrendered a bomb of a three-run homer to Longoria. The first three runs were charged to Boone Logan, but it was a horrendous outing for the generally reliable Ayala.
It's Wade back there: Needing just one more strike to earn the save, Wade served up a home-run ball to pinch-hitter Dan Johnson with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 7.
Big Tex: Mark Teixeira picked the right time to get hot, clubbing two home runs in the final game of the season, including a second-inning grand slam. Tex finished up the regular season with 39 homers and 111 RBIs.
Price is wrong: Rays ace David Price got shelled for six runs (five earned) in four innings, including Teixeira's two home runs.
Dellin OK: Dellin Betances went two innings, walked two, allowed one hit -- a line drive off the bat of Casey Kotchman that appeared to hit him in the rear end -- and held the Rays scoreless in his first major-league start.
A-Rod not OK: Alex Rodriguez was scratched just before the game with a sore right knee, the same knee that was operated on for a torn meniscus in July. We'll find out his playoff prognosis after the game.
A.J. on the bump: A.J. Burnett made his bullpen debut, facing one hitter -- Sean Rodriguez -- getting one out (a groundout to shortstop) and throwing five pitches.
Captain Comeback: Derek Jeter fell just shy of batting .300 -- with his 0-for-3, his final average settled at .297 -- but by just about any yardstick, his 2011 was a definite improvement over 2010, when he batted .270 with a .340 OBP (.356 this year). His slugging percentage was up (.390 vs. .370) but homers (6 vs. 10) and RBIs (61 vs. 67) were down. All in all, a better season.
Grand season: Curtis Granderson finished up his 2011 season with 41 homers, 116 RBIs and 136 runs scored, all career highs. And he hit .262, 15 points higher than last season. Nice turnaround. He also struck out 169 times, five shy of his personal best. Or is it worst?
Well, at least he had more steals: Eduardo Nunez booted B.J. Upton's seventh-inning grounder to short to finish with an even 20 errors for the season in 162 chances. He did, however, have 22 stolen bases.
What's next: An overnight flight home, followed by a workout at the Stadium on Thursday afternoon, followed by --finally! -- the moment you all have been waiting for: Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night against the Detroit Tigers, first pitch at 8:37 p.m. ET.