Tampa Bay topped the Yankees 7-4 last night at The Trop and drew within 5.5 games of the Bronx Bombers in the American League East.
Starter, and winner, James Shields allowed ten hits over seven innings, but allowed no free passes while striking out five. Burke Badenhop and Joel Peralta earned holds while setting up All-Star closer Fernando Rodney for his 24th save of the season. Rodney struck out two in an innings work.
After falling behind 3-0, the Rays came back with three runs of their own in the third. Elliot Johnson singled with one out and stole second base before Desmond Jennings was walked by Yankee starter Ivan Nova.
After Carlos Pena popped out for the second out of the inning, B.J. Upton singled. Johnson scored when catcher Russell Martin dropped the ball, and Jennings wound up on third with Upton taking second. Jeff Keppinger lined a single to center to score both Jennings and Upton to tie the score.
The Yankees added a run in the top of the fourth, but the Rays countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Jose Molina singled to lead off the inning and scored on Sean Rodriguez’ sixth home run of the season.
Tampa Bay tacked on two insurance runs and never looked back while defeating the Yankees for the second time in two days in come-from-behind fashion.
The Rays will take on the Yankees in the hopes of a three game sweep at 3:10 this afternoon in St. Pete. David Price will toe the slab for the Rays with an 11-4 record and 2.92 earned-run average. New York will counter with right-hander David Phelps, who is 1-3 in 14 appearances this season. It will only be Phelps third start of the year, and he will likely be on a pitch count.
• The Rays have now beaten the Yankees nine straight times at Tropicana Field. I saw a Yankees fan mention that three of those games were at the end of last year when the Yankees really didn’t care. OK, thanks. The Rays will take that. And for the record, the Yankees never like to lose to a division opponent – and no organization likes to go into the playoffs on the skids.
• Ben Zobrist has been on a tear since the first week of June. Over the past 22 games he is hitting .385 with 30 base hits in 78 at-bats. You can add in fifteen walks and thirteen ribbies over that time. Check out why Ben is raking.
• Tampa Bay has come from behind the past two games against New York and Joe Maddon was happy to see a few timely hits fall in, claiming the Rays hadn’t been fortunate of late
• Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld begin rehab assignments. Joyce will be playing at AAA Durham today and tomorrow, and may join the Rays in Cleveland for part of the four-game set with the Indians. Fuld will be at Advance A Charlotte beginning on Saturday. Tampa Bay could certainly use Joyce’s .899 OPS, eleven homers and thirty-four RBIs back in the lineup.
• With the A.L. East as tight as it is, it’s good to see the Rays getting healthy. While there is no time-table for Evan Longoria’s return, the Rays are still in the fight for a wild-card spot, and will only be better off when their disabled list begins to fade into the distance. I have said it before: Joe Maddon is pushing all the buttons but the panic button. I heard him speak about how far the Rays are out of the lead, and he referred to team history: Tampa Bay knows how to handle the tough times, having done so last September. I suppose Joe was basically paraphrasing Yogi Berra’s “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”