In a series the Yankees desperately needed, they came through. Ironically, it wasn’t their ace who help set the tone, rather their best free agent acquisition and a struggling young righthander. New York Yankees best starter this season, Hiroki Kuroda, toed the rubber and looked to have his best stuff against the feisty Tampa Bay lineup. He cruised through the first three innings, including striking out seven of the first 10 batters to start the contest.
Meanwhile, Rays young gun, Matt Moore was matching his counterpart until the third inning when he threw 40+ pitches en route to a five-run inning. He started off the inning with a walk to Eduardo Nunez, who has been providing a spark from the bottom of the lineup for the Yankees recently. Nunez then stole second base setting up a possible RBI spot for Derek Jeter, who didn’t disappoint. Jeter singles lined up the middle to start the scoring; 1-0.
However, it didn’t stop there for Moore or the Yankees. Nick Swisher laid down a bunt to move Jeter into scoring position and Alex Rodriguez made it 2-0 on a RBI single to center field. After a Robinson Cano walk, Russell Martin, who continues his hot streak, clubbed a three-run home run to make it 5-0.
Rays manager, Joe Maddon, was ejected later in the inning and it must have lit a fire, as Ben Zobrist launched a solo shot to get the Rays on the board. The Yankees added to their lead in the fourth as Nunez reached on error and proceeded to steal second and third base, and was plated on a RBI sac fly from Rodriguez a few batters later.
Rays finally made some noise in the top of the sixth when Kuroda walked catcher Jose Lobaton to start the inning. He then allowed a single to Desmond Jennings, and a walk to Zobrist before Evan Longoria singled home two runs to cut the Yankees lead in half; 6-3. One batter later Matt Joyce grounded into a double play, but Zobrist scored from third, pulling the Rays within two runs.
Of course things get a little interesting with Soriano on the mound. After striking out B.J. Upton – the Rays centerfielder’s fourth of the day – Ryan Roberts reached on an error from Rodriguez, but a few pitches later Jeff Keppinger grounded into a game-ending double play, giving Soriano his 40th save of the year. Yankees win it 6-4 and take a 1.5-game on the Baltimore Orioles (as of this writing the O’s haven’t played yet) and a five-game lead on the Rays.
All told, Kuroda pitched well despite giving up four runs, finishing with 10 strikeouts and two walks. The bullpen was a little shaky, but held down the win. The team is now 6-4 in their last 10 ten games, and they are looking better at the plate. The Yankees starting staff is turning things around, and the bullpen is apparently adopting the “bend, but don’t break” mentality. Whatever gets them into the playoffs, is A-OK with me.
The Yankees stay at home and welcome the Toronto Blue Jays to Andy Pettitte‘s (3-3, 3.22 ERA) return from a broken ankle he suffered in late June. Facing Pettitte will be the struggling ace Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.87).