The New York Yankees got Alex Rodriguez back from the disabled list while losing Robinson Cano to injury in their opener with the Tampa Bay Rays . In the process they lost, further tightening the AL East.
The first-place Yankees, who could have company atop division for the first time in nearly three months with another setback, will have Cano and Curtis Granderson in the starting lineup Tuesday night.
With Monday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay (74-61), coupled with Baltimore's win in Toronto, New York's lead over the second-place Orioles shrunk to a game. The Rays, who beat the Yankees (76-58) for the 10th time in 11 games at Tropicana Field, also pulled within 2 1/2 of first place."We still have the lead," said CC Sabathia, who went seven innings Monday.
That lead, however, could vanish with another loss. The Yankees, who led the East by 10 games on July 18, haven't been tied atop the division since June 11, when Tampa Bay also had a share of the top spot."This is the start of September, and this is where you want to be," said James Shields , Monday's winning pitcher. "In spring training, we always want to be in the playoff hunt, and now here we are again."
An unlikely player lifted the Rays to their third straight win Monday. Catcher Chris Gimenez , who was recalled from the minors on Saturday and entered the opener batting .203 with four RBIs, drove in two runs. He snapped a 3-all tie in the eighth with a two-out grounder that was just out of Cano's reach.
Cano said he felt a twinge in his left hip on the play but is in the lineup for this game as the designated hitter.
Rodriguez went 1 for 4 Monday in his first game after being sidelined six weeks with a broken left hand. Fernando Rodney struck him out to start the ninth inning and ended the game by fanning Granderson in a pinch-hitting role to earn his 41st save and send New York to its fourth loss in five games."Who's panicking? I'm not," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter , who is 0 for 9 with three walks in three September games. "You're going to have highs and lows, but you're still going to have confidence."
Granderson had been out since leaving Saturday's game with tendinitis in his right hamstring. He leads the Yankees with 34 homers, but is batting .122 with 18 strikeouts in 13 games against the Rays this season. He is also 1 for 5 lifetime against scheduled starter Alex Cobb (8-8, 4.39 ERA).
Cobb struggled Wednesday in Texas, yielding four runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings, but Tampa Bay still won 8-4. That's been common lately, with the Rays winning Cobb's last six starts and the right-hander posting a 3.38 ERA while earning four of those decisions.
He lost his lone start of the season against the Yankees on June 6, permitting four runs in seven innings of a 4-1 final.
New York counters with Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.90), who had his start pushed back from Saturday after going less than five innings in each of his last two outings. Against Cleveland on Aug. 26, the veteran righty gave up two runs in 4 2-3 innings in New York's 4-2 win.
He is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts versus the Rays, and Evan Longoria is 2 for 5 in career matchups.
Longoria is 7 for 14 in four games against the Yankees this season - all wins - and Jeff Keppinger is batting .545 (12 for 22) in his last six games overall.
|New York Yankees|
|September 02, 2012||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 27, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder tightness|
|August 17, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|August 09, 2012||CC Sabathia||15-Day DL||Left elbow soreness|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 31, 2012||Sean Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
|August 28, 2012||Matt Joyce||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left forearm|
|August 05, 2012||Ben Zobrist||Day-to-Day||Left game - upper back spasms|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
|July 21, 2012||Alex Cobb||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee contusion|
|July 21, 2012||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Right oblique strain|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- That big lead in the AL East is gone.
The New York Yankees are in a free-fall that's seen them blow a 10-game cushion over the past 47 days.
"We're scuffling a little bit, but hopefully be able to break out of it tomorrow," Derek Jeter said Tuesday night after a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays dropped the Yankees into a tie for first place with surging Baltimore.
New York had been sitting atop the division standings by itself for 84 consecutive days - its longest streak since 2004.
"Nothing changes. We play everybody. How many games do we have left?" Jeter said. "Win all of them, we're good, right? We don't have to worry about anybody else. We still have games left. We've got to find ways to win, that's the bottom line. Nothing's changed. You hope you have that one game where it seems to snowball from there."
The frustration, however, has started to show: Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ejected by plate umpire Tony Randazzo in the fourth inning for arguing after Chris Dickerson was called out on strikes.
Evan Longoria hit a go-ahead homer and Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton also connected for the third-place Rays, who have won four straight to pull within 1 1/2 games of the Orioles and Yankees. Tampa Bay, which has made the playoffs three of the past four seasons - twice as division champions - trailed by 10 1/2 games at the end of play on July 18.
New York opened its largest lead of the year that day (10 games) but is 19-26 since. The Yankees' biggest cushion in a season in which they failed to finish first was six games in 1933, according to STATS LLC.
Since divisional play began in 1969, New York has advanced to the postseason each of the last 15 times it has been in first place at the start of September.
"The team is not playing good right now, but we've just got to forget about this game and just go out there and play hard tomorrow," Robinson Cano said. "We're tied. It's time to start at zero. Just keep playing hard, and forget about what happened the past few weeks. Just focus on the game."
Longoria hit a two-run shot off Freddy Garcia (7-6), wiping out a 2-1 deficit in the third inning. Jennings and Upton delivered back-to-back solo shots in the fifth, giving Alex Cobb (9-8) and Tampa Bay's bullpen all the offensive support they'd need against the Yankees' sputtering lineup.
The Rays improved to 7-1 at home against the Yankees this season before a crowd of just 17,652 - down from 28,585 the previous day. They have won 11 of 12 between the teams at Tropicana Field dating to July 2011.
"We said from the start of spring training this is how it was going to be," Upton said.
"A lot of people on our side kind of wrote it off when we were 10 1/2 games out, but I've been around long enough to know that this is a long season. A lot of things can happen, especially with the second wild card in place," the Tampa Bay center fielder added. "So we kept our heads up and we're playing good baseball. We find ourselves a game and a half out in September. There's still a long way to go, a pretty tough schedule. We know what's ahead of us."
Cano matched a career high for New York with his 29th homer, a two-run shot off Cobb, who allowed four hits over seven innings. Fernando Rodney earned his major league-best 42nd save in 44 opportunities.
The Yankees, who have lost five of six, finished with six hits. It was the fifth consecutive games they've been held to six or fewer - their longest such stretch since going six straight from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, 1990.
It appeared Dickerson wanted timeout in the fourth, but Randazzo did not grant it and Dickerson went down looking to end the inning. Dickerson didn't seem to like the call and moments later Girardi came storming out of the dugout, yanked his cap off his head and argued face-to-face with Randazzo.
Before heading back to the dugout, Girardi kicked dirt in the batter's box.
"Dickerson didn't call timeout. Dickerson thought it was ball three," Girardi said, declining to comment further.
Alex Rodriguez went 1 for 4 with a ninth-inning infield hit in his second game since spending six weeks on the disabled list with a broken left hand. Curtis Granderson returned to the starting lineup after sitting out most of two games with a sore right hamstring and went 0 for 3.
Cano played despite experiencing tightness in his left hip reaching for a grounder that got past him for the game-deciding hit during the eighth inning of Monday's 4-3 loss to the Rays. He got treatment following the game and again early Tuesday before Girardi penciled him into the lineup.
Jennings and Upton homered five pitches apart to begin the fifth. Upton, who hit a solo shot off CC Sabathia in Monday's series opener, also doubled on a 3-0 pitch to drive in Tampa Bay's first run of the night.
Garcia allowed five runs and five hits in 5 1-3 innings. The loss was the right-hander's first since July 30.
NOTES: Cano has 22 homers and 84 RBIs in 130 career games against Tampa Bay. ... Longoria started at DH rather than his customary spot at third base as manager Joe Maddon continues to be careful with the hamstring injury that sidelined the three-time All-Star for 85 games. ... Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte is set to throw to hitters Wednesday for the first time since breaking his left ankle in June and being placed on the 60-day disabled list. ... New York 1B Mark Teixeira , sidelined the past seven games with a strained left calf, took batting practice and ran on a treadmill. He might field some grounders Wednesday and could return to the lineup as soon as Thursday, when the team begins a four-game series at Baltimore.