Rapid Reaction: Rays 5, Yankees 2

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
10:11
PM ET


Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: That for the first time since June 11, the Yankees are sharing first place in the AL East. Only difference? That team was on the way up. This one looks like it's on its way down. Tonight's 5-2 loss to the Rays drops the Yanks into a first-place tie with the Orioles, who crushed Toronto and must be licking their chops for this weekend's four-game series at Camden Yard.

Not even Joe Girardi's fourth-inning temper tantrum could spark his lifeless team, which watched him kick dirt all over home plate -- and didn't get another hit until the eighth inning.

Freddy's dead: That's what I said. The Tampa Bay Rays misused him, ripped him up and abused him for 5 1/3 innings, belting three home runs. That makes three straight starts Freddy Garcia couldn't give the Yankees six full innings, and it was his second five-run outing in the past two weeks.

Bay Bombers: The relatively light-hitting Rays lit up the Trop with back-to-back home runs by Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton to start off the home fifth. That made three home runs allowed by Garcia in the first five innings. It was the fourth time the Rays have hit back-to-back HRs this season; the Yankees have done it 10 times.

Hit the road, Joe: Girardi got ejected by home plate ump Tony Randazzo after Chris Dickerson was called out on strikes to end the third inning. Girardi charged out of the dugout on the call -- Rays catcher Jose Molina threw down to second after catching the pitch because Jayson Nix, who had singled, broke for second -- and was tossed before he even got to the umpire. From there, Girardi did his bug-eyed, veins-bulging, screaming routine and ended the tantrum by kicking dirt over home plate on his way back to the dugout. It was Girardi's fourth ejection of the season; the Yankees were 2-1 in the previous three.

Hip, hip hooray: Robinson Cano, who wasn't sure he was playing until just before game time, dispelled any lingering concerns about his hip in the first inning when he lined a 2-1 pitch from Alex Cobb over the left-field fence with Nick Swisher (walk) aboard to give the Yankees an early 2-0 lead. Cano's 29th of the season matched his career high, set in 2010.

Hop, hop hooray: In his first game at third base in more than six weeks, Alex Rodriguez made a nice backhanded stop on Jeff Keppinger's grounder down the line, then used the turf to deliver a two-hopper to Swisher, who picked to nip Keppinger for the first out of the second inning.

Long gone: Garcia struck out Evan Longoria in his first at-bat, but the second time up, Longoria blasted a two-run homer to deep left-center to give the rays a 3-2 lead. Worst of all, it all started with a two-out walk to Ben Zobrist, which brought Longoria to the plate.

Familiar failure: The Yankees had runners on first and second with none out in the third and -- surprise, surprise -- failed to score when Swisher, who had gotten ahead in the count, 2-0, wound up striking out and Cano rapped into a 1-6-3 double play. Swisher struck out four times last week against the Orioles and three times tonight, stranding three runners, including first and second with none out in the third.

Bright spot: Cody Eppley was by far the most effective Yankees pitcher of the night, retiring all five hitters he faced and striking out two.

And another: Joba Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, including two K's.

Cervelli sighting: Francisco Cervelli, sent down to Triple-A Scranton on the last day of spring training, got into his first game of the year in the eighth inning after the Yankees hit for Chris Stewart in the previous inning.

What's next: Finale of this three-game series, Hiroki Kuroda (12-10, 3.04) vs. LHP Matt Moore (10-8, 3.58), 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
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .275
HRM. Teixeira 20
RBIJ. Ellsbury 54
RB. Gardner 76
OPSB. Gardner .784
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135