That is why the two wins in the first two games of this series, and especially today's 4-3, 11-inning victory on Lyle Overbay's solo home run, feel so important to the Yankees. Now, they head into Sunday's finale with CC Sabathia, their nominal ace, who has had his own problems winning here, bidding for the sweep against Alex Cobb.
New York Yankees
Today's game was a 4-hour, 3-minute affair with more storylines than a Quentin Tarantino film. Aside from Overbay's game winner, there was:
• Vidal Nuno, who, in his second major league start, pitched unbeaten Matt Moore to a standstill for six innings, allowing five hits and being charged with two runs, the second because he was removed with a runner on first that Boone Logan eventually allowed to score. "He kept them off balance with a number of different pitches and threw strikes," manager Joe Girardi said.
• Ivan Nova, in his first appearance out of the bullpen since being reactivated from the DL, worked a shaky 10th inning -- he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk -- but came up big with a strikeout of James Loney to narrowly escape disaster. In fact, he wound up getting the win. "I was telling myself, 'You got to get this guy,'" Nova said. "I said, 'We're not losing this game right now.'"
"That's a game winner right there," Brett Gardner, who had a pretty good look at it from center field, said.
• Gardner delivered a clutch RBI single on a 1-2 fastball from Rays' closer Fernando Rodney, stroking it easily into center field to drive in Brennan Boesch with the tying run with two out in the top of the ninth.
New York Yankees
• Boesch was a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider Friday, but after Curtis Granderson suffered a broken hand Friday night, he got the call. Upon taking a flight to Tampa on Saturday morning, Boesch found himself in the pressure cooker against Rodney, coming up with two out and a man on following a walk to Overbay. Boesch lined an RBI double, drawing the Yankees to within one run and setting the stage for Gardner's game-tying hit.
“I did not sleep much, but I had a feeling that I was going to get an opportunity there just the way the game was shaking out and the way Joe has been using me in those situations late in the game," Boesch said. "For me, the most difficult thing about pinch hitting is you’re sitting one minute and you’re in the game the next. To try to time Rodney is difficult as it is, then you look up and he’s throwing 99 [mph] with his first fastball."
• Nearly overlooked was a clutch performance by Preston Claiborne, who was called on to clean up the mess left behind by Shawn Kelley and Logan in the seventh with two on and none out and worked his way out of it, with strikeouts of Ryan Roberts and Luke Scott.
• Last but never least, Rivera pitched a perfect 11th to convert his 18th save in 18 chances this season. Mo has now converted 62 of 64 save opportunities against the Rays in his career.