Rapid Reaction: Rays 7, Yankees 6
April, 6, 2012
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
Say it ain't Mo: Things were going just fine -- the Yankees had battled back to overcome an early deficit, the bullpen had pitched well, Houdini made one of his periodic reappearances -- and then came Mariano Rivera. And shockingly, the most reliable reliever in history in one of the most automatic situations -- Mo had converted 60 of 61 career save opportunities versus the Rays, including the last 27 in a row -- blew the save within the first two batters (single by Desmond Jennings, RBI triple by Ben Zobrist) and the game three batters later when Carlos Pena crushed one to the base of the wall, and that's all, folks. Rays win 7-6.
Over-manager of the year: The award goes to Joe Girardi. Well, so far anyway. Girardi out-managed himself in the first inning and again in the ninth, when he pulled Nick Swisher from right field and inserted Eduardo Nunez as a fifth infielder, leaving Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson to cover the whole backyard. Didn't matter; Pena's shot was scoring the winning run if there were five outfielders instead.
The escape artist survives: David Robertson pulled out his patented Houdini act again, putting two runners on to start the eighth and then striking out the next three batters. But D-Rob got a huge assist from Joe Maddon, who put on a suicide squeeze twice, and Jose Molina, who missed the sign the first time and bunted foul on a two-strike pitch the second time. But the rising fastball Robertson blew past PH Stephen Vogt for the first out was a thing of beauty. And the 95-mph heater he pumped past Matt (4 Ks) Joyce to end the inning was just plain cruel.
CC? Comme ci, comme ca: CC Sabathia wasn't great today; in fact at times he wasn't even very good. But as always, he was a bulldog out there, working without much fastball command but a terrific slider that accounted for most of his seven strikeouts. He got hit way too much (Pena, Longoria HRs) and threw way too many pitches, but found a way to escape two jams -- first and second, one out in the third and first and third, none out in the fifth -- with timely strikeouts of the dangerous Pena.
Eeee-Bomb-Yez!: New lefty DH Raul Ibanez put the Yankees ahead with a three-run HR in the third inning, proving once again that Spring Training Numbers Don't Mean Nuthin'.
Old Alex, or Alex of old?: Sure looked like the latter as Alex Rodriguez lasered a double and a single in his first two at-bats, and made three excellent plays at third base. The Rays got verrrry careful with A-Rod after his first two ABs, walking him two of last three times up.
Grandy Man the new Tex?: Facing what Mark Teixeira had to face all last season --the dreaded shift -- Granderson hit into the teeth of it all day long, grounding out twice to a shortstop positioned to the right of second base. Granderson went 0-for-5 and, counting his first-inning DP, accounted for six outs.
Captain Crunch: Fittingly enough, Derek Jeter got the Yankees' first hit of the season, a single to center off James Shields leading off the game.
Oops!: Girardi's first managerial decision of the season blew up in his face when he chose to have CC walk the weak-hitting Sean Rodriguez, a righty, and pitch to the dangerous Pena, a lefty, with the bases loaded in the first inning. Boom, roasted, as Pena crushed one into the bleachers for a grand slam and an early 4-0 Rays lead.
Here we (don't) go again: The Yankees were 2-for-11 w/RISP, one of them an infield hit by Swisher, or this one would have been a rout.
What's next: Hiroki Kuroda makes his Yankees debut against David Price on Saturday, first pitch at 7:10 p.m.