Unwelcome Guests: Yankees lose ninth straight as visitors to Tropicana Field


The New York Yankees have collectively played some of the best defense in the majors this season, but last night turned in a sloppy effort which coincided with Ivan Nova‘s erratic pitching. The result was three errors leading to three unearned runs which was the difference in a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees have now lost nine straight games at Tropicana Field and will have their hands full this afternoon with Rays staff ace David Price on the mound. Nova came into the start coming off a fantastic June, in which he was 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA, but looked nothing like that pitcher last night. The Yankees scored twice in the first inning for the second straight day, on a RBI-double from Curtis Granderson and a RBI-single by Robinson Cano. There was the potential for more, but Cano made a base-running gaffe as he thought there were two outs when Nick Swisher flew out with only one down. Cano, who was running on the crack of the bat, didn’t come back and was easily doubled off. In the top half of the third, Dewayne Wise continued his hot stretch with his third home run, a solo shot off Rays’ starter James Shields.

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Nova coughed up three runs in the bottom of the third, as he was getting behind batters for a majority of the night. All three runs scored with two outs and the inning could have been over if Russell Martin was able to hold onto a throw from Wise which had Elliot Johnson pegged at the plate after a single by B.J. Upton. The runners advanced to second and third and Jeff Keppinger drove them in with a single to center field tying the game.

The Yankees quickly regained the lead in the top of the fourth courtesy of a couple two-out hits. Raul Ibanez doubled and then scored on Eric Chavez‘s single. The lead didn’t last longer than two batters as Nova allowed a leadoff single to Jose Molina and then a mammoth home run to Sean Rodriguez, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead.

The Rays scored two more runs in the seventh inning, one on a steal of home by Desmond Jennings and the second a run-scoring single by Ben Zobrist. The Yankees had runners at second and third in the sixth but could not get a run across. They went softly in the eighth and ninth innings again last night, with Fernando Rodney notching a clean save, his 24th of the season.

The Yankees (48-32) gave up a game in the standings to the Baltimore Orioles, now five back, and of course the Rays (43-38) picked up a game and sit 5.5 back of the AL East leaders. The Yanks send rookie David Phelps to the mound this afternoon. Phelps will max out at 80-85 pitches today, as he is not completely stretched out after his previous stay with the Yankees as a reliever. He has accumulated 5 1/3 innings pitched against the Rays in one start and one relief appearance and has not allowed a run. Price, selected to the American League All-Star team this week, is 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 2012. He holds a 6-3 record with a 4.03 ERA in his career against the Bombers.