ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In a pitchers' duel in which neither starting pitcher deserved to lose but one did, the New York Yankees triumphed thanks to a player who hadn't shown much before Tuesday night. Now, they head into the series finale Wednesday with their most reliable starter on the hill and no chance of being swept.
What it means: That the Yankees can win a game when a left-hander starts, even one as good as David Price. The Yankees came in batting .185 as a team versus LH starters but still toughed out a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.
Nagging itch: Ichiro Suzuki was a pest to the Rays all night, scoring the tying run in the eighth inning on a ground out and delivering his first important hit of the season, a soft liner over second base on the first pitch Ichiro saw from reliever Fernando Rodney with the bases loaded in the ninth to provide the game-winner. Ichiro came into the game hitting .200 and left hitting .220 after his 2-for-4, two-RBI night.
Rocky start, strong finish: Phil Hughes got hit hard in the first inning, allowing a run on a walk, a double and a sacrifice fly to deep center, but settled down nicely for the next five innings, allowing just three singles before giving up the go-ahead run in the seventh on an RBI single by ex-Yankee Jose Molina. It was by far his best performance of the season: 7IP, 6H, 2ER, 6Ks.
Price is wronged: David Price pitched eight strong innings, but as soon as he gave up a leadoff single to Robinson Cano in the ninth, Joe Maddon pulled him although he had thrown just 99 pitches. He wound up taking the loss after Rodney walked two batters, one intentional, before allowing the game-winning hit to Ichiro. Incredibly, Price is still winless (0-2) this season, and his ERA is 5.52.
Fan dance: Price fanned Eduardo Nunez to start the fourth inning, only to see him come around to score the Yankees' first run of the game after the third strike got past Molina, allowing Nunez to reach first safely. Two batters later, Vernon Wells singled Nunez home to tie the game at 1-1.
Scratching and clawing: After the Rays took a 2-1 lead on Molina's single, the Yankees came right back to scratch across a run on singles by Ichiro Suzuki and Jayson Nix, and a bouncer to second by Brett Gardner.
Chamber music: In what has become an annual custom, Rays manager Joe Maddon allowed the audience at a luncheon of the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce to help him write out his lineup, which managed just six hits and two runs off Hughes. So much for focus groups.
Feathered friend: Maddon conducted his pregame interview session with a white cockatoo on his shoulder like a bespectacled Baretta. It was the latest stunt Maddon used this week in an effort to loosen his team up. No truth to the rumor the cockatoo served as Maddon's bench coach. Supposedly, he's bringing another animal into the clubhouse Wednesday. Won't say what species, only that it won't be a snake. He's scared to death of them.