TAMPA, FL – In a battle of talented young arms gone wild, the New York Yankees needed extra innings to top the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 4-3 in front of 25,874 people on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Rays starter Matt Moore turned in six solid innings on the mound, but did not get enough offensive support to secure his ninth victory of the season. Moore ended the day allowing one earned run on five hits and a pair of walks. The 23-year-old struck out just two Yankees as he lowered his season ERA to 2.21 with Saturday’s outing.
Moore’s counterpart, Vidal Nuno, made his case to keep his rotation spot by pitching into the seventh inning for his longest outing of the season. Nuno allowed one run through six innings, then was charged with one more when he left after allowing a James Loney single in the seventh. Loney later came around to score on a Kelly Johnson single. The 25-year-old lefty allowed just five hits and a walk while striking out two hitters on the day.
The Yankees got on the board first when Brett Gardner, who doubled to lead off the game, was brought home on a two-out single by Travis Hafner to make the game 1-0. However, this would be the extent of the Yankees offense until much later in the game.
Tampa Bay evened the score at one in the fifth inning with a two-out score of their own. Jose Molina doubled earlier in the inning, and would come around when Desmond Jennings ripped a double of his own.
The Rays would take the lead in the seventh inning when Kelly Johnson poked a pinch-hit single off of Boone Logan through the right side to score James Loney and make the score 2-1. Matt Joyce would move to third on the play. Joyce scored one batter later on a fielder’s choice, as shortstop Jayson Nix fielded a ground ball and attempted to get Joyce at the plate. Despite multiple replays appearing to show Joyce being tagged prior to reaching the plate, he was called safe by home plate umpire John Tumpane. By the time the inning ended, the Rays appeared to be in control with a 3-1 lead.
Entering the top of the ninth, Rays manager Joe Maddon called on his closer, Francisco Rodney, to secure the game’s final three outs and nail down a 3-1 victory. He retired the first two batters, then worked the count full before walking Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay. With a runner on first, Joe Girardi used Brennan Boesch, who was recalled prior to Saturday’s game, to pinch-hit for Austin Romine. Boesch came through in a big way, putting a check-swing down the line for a double that would score Overbay from first base. Brett Gardner would come to the plate with the tying run in scoring position. Down to his final strike, Gardner poked a single up the middle to score Overbay. Gardner would be thrown out trying to steal second with Robinson Cano at the plate one batter later.
As the game entered extra innings, the Yankees could not muster anything in the tenth inning. Demoted to the bullpen, Ivan Nova entered the game for the Yankees for the bottom half of the tenth. With just one out, Nova loaded the bases, and it looked like the Yankees would be on the losing end of the game. However, Nova battled back to strike out James Loney, and then got Matt Joyce to ground out to second base to end the inning.
In the eleventh, the Yankees again struck with two outs in the inning. This time, it was Lyle Overbay who blasted a shot to deep right field for his eighth home run of the season to give the Yankees the lead. Mariano Rivera would come on for the bottom half of the inning to record his 18th save of the season and secure the win for the Yankees.
The Yankees and the Rays conclude their three-game series on Sunday afternoon when staff ace C.C. Sabathia (4-3, 3.43 ERA) squares off with Alex Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA) at Tropicana Field. First pitch is slated for 1:40 PM.
Dan is usedview.com’s beat writer for the New York Yankees and the Trenton Thunder. Follow him on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74 for all the latest New York Yankees news.