It says a lot to watch how a team reacts when they have completely hit bottom. The Yankees may have reached that spot Tuesday night when the Baltimore Orioles finally tied them atop the American League East after holding a 10-game lead on July 18. Tonight, the Yanks came out and battled back twice and found a way to get a win against the Tampa Bay Rays by the final score of 6-4. As the Yankees were triumphant, the Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays giving sole possession of first place back to New York.
Being tied in the American League East was certainly not something the Yankees envisioned after mounting such a commanding lead, but it was the spot they were in to start the game. Playing in a playoff atmosphere (or as much as could be felt among the 16,711 in attendance) the Yankees battled the Rays back and forth in the final game of a three-game series.
The Yankees fell behind 1-0 on some Rays’ small ball, but the Bombers struck for three runs in the top of the fourth after Tampa starter Matt Moore had set down seven Yankees via strikeout in the first three innings. The Yankees struck out 15 times in total, but received timely hits when they needed them.
Alex Rodriguez‘s double into the left field gap drove home Derek Jeter with the Yankees first run. Jeter ended the night with three hits and made a nifty running grab in the seventh to prevent a run from scoring. Russell Martin had the first of his two big hits on the night with a ground-rule double over the right field wall which brought around Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.
But Martin, who has struggled all season, came through again with a solo homer deep into the left field seats in the top of the sixth inning. Martin raised his average above the Mendoza line to .202 after his 2-for-4 night including 3 RBI.
However, once again, Kuroda couldn’t hold the lead as he allowed a solo homer to Luke Scott. This has been the problem with Yankees’ pitching recently; the inability to hold leads and each one is crucial at this point in the season.
In the top of the seventh Andruw Jones singled on the first pitch he saw and was replaced by Ichiro Suzuki. Steve Pearce followed with a single moving Suzuki to second. The Yankees played some small ball of their own as Jayson Nix bunted over the runners. With Ichiro running on contact, Jeter hit a grounder to drawn in second baseman Elliot Johnson who promptly threw the ball away past catcher Jose Lobaton to the backstop allowing Ichiro and Pearce to score.
With their third lead of the game, the Yankees bullpen was not going to cough this one up. Boone Logan walked a batter in between two outs in the seventh and David Robertson finished off the inning after a single to Evan Longoria. Robertson retired Matt Joyce on Jeter’s fine play and then worked a perfect eighth handing the ball over to Rafael Soriano. Soriano recorded his 36th save in 39 chances with a 12-pitch 1-2-3 inning.
The Yankees (77-59) travel to Baltimore’s Camden Yards to face the Orioles (76-60) in a monster four-game set beginning Thursday with the AL East lead hanging in the balance. Either team can make a major statement by winning three of four games. Rookie David Phelps (3-4, 3.13 ERA) takes on Baltimore’s Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54 ERA) in the opener.