What it means: That the Yankees' world, having been knocked briefly off-kilter, is back spinning on its axis at least for the start of the crucial four-game series this weekend in Baltimore. The Rays give away the game and the Yankees are glad to take it, avoiding a sweep, a four-game losing streak and the humiliation of having to share the lead in the AL East for another night with the Orioles.
Elliot Mess: With Yankees at second and third, one out and the infield way, way in, Rays 2B Elliot Johnson got exactly what he wanted, a Derek Jeter grounder hit right at him. But with Ichiro Suzuki coming home, Johnson threw way, way wide of C Jose Lobaton, a two-base error that allowed both runners to score and gave the Yankees the 6-4 lead that became their margin of victory.
D-Rob socks it to Rays: David Robertson traded in his customary knee-high black socks for long pants pulled down to his shoetops. With his new look, he got four huge outs, including a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, to deliver a two-run lead for Rafael Soriano to protect in the ninth.
How's that for range?: With Rays at first and second and two out in the seventh, Jeter ran down Matt Joyce's bloop in short left-center and made a potentially game-saving catch to preserve the 6-4 Yankees lead.
Long overdue: A day after hitting coach Kevin Long said the big-hitting Yankees might try bunting to kick-start the offense, Jayson Nix laid down a good one to move the runners up to second and third in the seventh inning.
No respect at all: Once again, an opposing manager walked Robinson Cano to pitch to Alex Dangerfield, er, Rodriguez, and once again, he got away with it. Joe Maddon chose to pitch to A-Rod with runners on first and third and two out, and his judgment was rewarded when Rodriguez grounded the first pitch to shortstop for an inning-ending forceout.
Hard to hold: The Yankees had the lead twice tonight, 3-1 after 3½ innings, and 4-3 after 5½, and gave it back both times, which should come as no surprise. In 20 of their previous 31 losses, they had held the lead only to lose it, and had blown leads in six of their nine previous losses to the Rays this season. Fortunately for them, they were able to hold their final lead tonight for two innings to snap their three-game losing streak.
High RISP, high reward: The Yankees got two timely hits in the fourth inning, A-Rod's double that scored Jeter from second, and Russell Martin's ground-rule double that scored Cano and A-Rod, to take a 3-1 lead. For a brief time, they were actually 2-for-2 w/RISP.
Hir-OK: Kuroda was just OK tonight -- 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R -- but hurt himself in the fifth inning by walking Sam Fuld with two out, and then, after Desmond Jennings singled, being unable to put Ben Zobrist away despite getting ahead 0-2. Kuroda eventually left a sinker up, which Zobrist smacked into right-center; with the runners going, both scored easily to tie the game at 3.
Russell shows muscle: Martin broke the 3-3 tie with two out in the top of the sixth, muscling a 2-2 fastball from Moore into the left-field seats, his 15th of the season. He also knocked in three of the four Yankees runs. Best of all, the two-hit night nudged his BA above .200 -- to .203! -- for the first time since June 22.
DJ3:16: Jeter's fifth-inning double was his third hit of the night, giving him 16 three-hit games --16! -- this season. Jeter has five hits in his last seven at-bats and his recent 4-for-32 skid, which only ended last night, already seems far in the past.
Small ball, big run: As if they had been eavesdropping on Long the night before, the Rays scratched out the first run of the game on a single, a sacrifice bunt and another single in the first inning off Kuroda.
Small ball, big fail: The Rays got a little too cute for their own good in the second inning when, with runners at second and third after a single by Jeff Keppinger and a double over Curtis Granderson's head by Lobaton, Joe Maddon had Johnson lay down a bunt. Kuroda fielded it flawlessly, looked back both runners and easily got the out at first. Could have been a safety squeeze or perhaps someone missed a sign. Either way, a wasted out and when Fuld grounded out to end the inning, a blown opportunity.
What's next: Showdown in Baltimore, the first of four games with the upstart Orioles, David Phelps (3-4, 3.13) in what is no doubt the biggest game of his brief major league career, facing RHP Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54), first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
The matchups the rest of the weekend: Phil Hughes (13-12, 4.18) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (12-8, 3.79) on Friday night; CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42) vs. LHP Joe Saunders (7-11, 4.26) on Saturday night and Freddy Garcia (7-6, 5.09) vs. LHP Zach Britton (5-1, 4.15) on Sunday afternoon.