The Monday Takeaway
The Yankees came into yesterday’s game in Tampa Bay having won seven of nine and with the best road record in the American League at 23-14. However, Joe Girardi’s squad had lost its last seven games at Tropicana Field, where the Rays had posted a team ERA of 3.08 this season. Those forces clashed, and the latter prevailed.
Robinson Cano—who had homered in each of the past two games for a league-high nine big flies since June 17—went 2-for-4 for the third consecutive day, but that did not stop Matt Moore from battling through seven innings of three-run ball. And then, the unforeseeable happened.
David Robertson relieved Boone Logan with Sean Rodriguez at second, two out in the bottom of the seventh, and New York leading, 3-2, just seven outs away from snapping its St. Petersburg skid. He promptly gave up an RBI double to pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad, who was previously 4-for-38 with 15 strikeouts against right-handed pitching. And then, something even less foreseeable happened.
The game was tied, and the damage was done, but the Yankees still had their dignity. Then, with Conrad at second, Elliot Johnson hit a hard roller down the first-base line that figured to end the inning. But Mark Teixeira—the most sure-handed first baseman in the league this year with 663 converted chances and no errors—watched it slip under his glove and take off on the turf into the right-field corner, as Conrad jogged around third with the deciding run in the 4-3 Rays win. The loss extended New York’s losing streak in Tampa Bay to eight, its longest such run since 1989-1991 in Arlington, and brought the Rays back to within 6 ½ games of the division lead.
The Yankees will try to avoid a ninth consecutive loss at the Trop behind Ivan Nova tonight (7:10 p.m. ET). Rays starter James Shields doled out 14 hits in a loss to the Tigers on June 28, and Tampa Bay is just 3-7 in his last 10 starts after winning each of his first six. In three starts versus the Yankees this year, Shields has issued 10 walks and struck out only nine batters; he has a 90-to-22 K/BB against all other opponents.
What to Watch for on Tuesday
- The first-place Giants travel to Washington to square off with the first-place Nationals in a matchup of the first National League teams to 45 wins (the Giants have three more losses). Tim Lincecum had little trouble firing seven shutout innings in a win over the banged-up Dodgers on June 27, but he’ll face a stiffer test in the series opener that should give us a better indication of whether he’s truly back on track. Ian Desmond, who comes into the series on a seven-game hitting streak that includes seven doubles and two home runs, is 7-for-9 lifetime versus The Freak (6:35 p.m. ET).
- A.J. Burnett has been credited with a win in eight consecutive outings, and the Pirates have not lost a game started by the 35-year-old righty since May 2, a span of 10 starts over two months during which he has logged a 2.18 ERA. Tonight, Burnett puts those streaks to the test against the Astros—the most recent team to avoid handing him a ‘W,’ despite managing only two runs in eight innings on May 13—and Lucas Harrell, who has given up only one run over his last two starts (7:05 p.m. ET).
- The American League slate also features a matchup of division-leading teams, with the White Sox and Chris Sale hosting the Rangers and Roy Oswalt. Alex Rios has been red-hot of late, collecting multiple hits in seven of his last nine games, and raising his OPS from 795 to 839 since June 24. The Coffee, Ala. native will look to provide a jolt as the ChiSox try to gain some breathing room in the AL Central (8:10 p.m. ET).
- Andrew Cashner and Trevor Bauer will both make their second starts of the season in the second game of the series between the Padres and the Diamondbacks in the desert. Cashner was in top form in his first start of 2012—holding the Astros to two hits and fanning nine in 6 1/3 innings—while Bauer needed 74 pitches to finish four frames against the Braves but was able to limit the damage. Aaron Hill, who has hit for the cycle twice since June 18, has a gaudy .357/.404/.636 triple slash at Chase Field this season (9:40 p.m. ET).