NEW YORK -- For the second time in four nights, a Yankees starter hooked up in a terrific pitching duel. And for the second time in four nights, the Yankee starter came up on the short end, thanks in large part to the dreadful Yankees offense.
In what is getting to be a tiresomely repetitive story, the Yankees managed just four hits and only one extra-base hit all night -- from Derek Jeter, of all people -- stranded eight runners and managed just one hit with runners in scoring position in nine tries, and that one didn't even score a run!
Still think pitching is the problem here?
This time, it was Hiroki Kuroda's turn to be on the wrong end of a heartbreaking loss, as the Yankees go down, 2-1, and face a sweep by the lowly (37-49) Rays in Thursday afternoon's finale. And, by the way, dropping them to official mediocrity (41-41) once again, last achieved on June 8, when they were 31-31.
Second best: Kuroda pitched a whale of a game, but like Masahiro Tanaka on Saturday night, ran second to a superior starting pitching performance, the difference being a solo HR hit off him in the sixth inning. Kuroda went eight innings, allowed two runs on nine hits, walked one and struck out seven in an outing that deserved better, both in run support and outcome.
High Price: Despite rumors he will soon be an ex-Ray (see what I did there?), David Price continues to pitch at a high level. Price held the Yankees to four hits and one run through seven innings, and struck out nine, the most Yankees he has every K'd in one game. The Yankees only got a runner to second base twice in the game, and only got that run home because of a botched rundown (see below). But between the strikeouts and three walks, Price threw 119 pitches, one fewer than his season high, and couldn't go past seven. Price improved his career record to 10-5 versus the Yankees in 23 career starts, but somehow, only evened his 2014 record at 7-7, an indication of how the Rays have played this season.
Timely hit: That would be the throw that hit Jacoby Ellsbury during a rundown in what was a fourth-inning pickoff gone awry. With Jeter (leadoff double) on third, Price caught Ellsbury (single) leaning and threw behind him to first, putting him in a pickle. But SS Ben Zobrist's throw hit Ellsbury in the hip, allowing Jeter to score with the run that tied the game at 1.
Call him Mr. Loney: James Loney has always hit well at Yankee Stadium 3.0, and he gave the Rays back the lead by belting Kuroda's first pitch of the sixth inning into the Yankees bullpen to make it 2-1. Two innings later, he lined a single just inside third base. Loney has 30 hits in 71 career ABs here (.423), and now, three home runs.
Shift happens: The Rays scratched across their first run on three fourth-inning singles, the last one a soft grounder by Logan Forsythe that hit the mound and got past 2B Brian Roberts, because the Yankees were overshifted. Kuroda limited the damage by getting a flyout and striking out Jose Molina, but considering how slim a margin for error the Yankees bats gave him, it turned out to be a huge run just the same.
Captain to Captain: Jeter's double over CF Desmond Jennings' head leading off the fourth was the 534th of his career, tying him with Lou Gehrig, the Yankees captain from 1935 until his death in 1941, atop the team's all-time list.
Tomorrow: We wrap this one up with a matinee, matching Vidal Nuno (2-4, 5.42), coming off an outstanding start against the Red Sox, and RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-7, 4.14), first pitch at 1:05 p.m. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Gehrig's famous "Luckiest Man" speech, the first 18,000 fans will receive Gehrig bobbleheads. The Yankees will also wear a patch on their uniforms in honor of the anniversary.