Devil Rays delay Yankees celebration with 7-6, 10 inning win
Jorge Velandia hit a grand slam for his first career homer and Dioner Navarro added a solo shot in the 10th inning to lift last-place Tampa Bay over New York 7-6 and prevent the Yankees from clinching a playoff berth on Tuesday night.
“I can’t really remember us having an easy time,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Regardless of who you’re playing, no one likes to see you celebrate. They’re going to play you tough.”
Coupled with Boston’s 7-3 victory over Oakland, New York fell three games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East with five games to play. The Yankees lead Detroit by 4 1/2 games in the wild-card race, and their magic number to clinch a playoff berth for the 13th consecutive year remained at one.
The Yankees trailed Boston by 14 1/2 games on May 29 and have salvaged their season by going a major league-best 47-24 since the All-Star break. But they’re just 8-8 this year against the pesky Devil Rays, who have baseball’s worst record.
Velandia’s grand slam off Brian Bruney finished a six-run sixth and offset a Rodriguez slam that gave New York a 5-0 lead in the third. Navarro, who had a RBI double in the sixth, hit the winner on a 2-0 pitch from Jeff Karstens (1-4).
“It’s not easy, but we’re going to get the job done before too long,” said the Yankees’ Johnny Damon, who was 5-for-5 and scored two runs. “We’re going to get back to the postseason, and we’re going to be going on all cylinders.”
A-Rod’s homer was his major league-leading 53rd, a shot that ended his longest homerless drought in more than a year. He has 151 RBIs, the most by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio’s 155 in 1948.
Gary Glover (6-5) pitched one scoreless inning for the victory. Eight Yankees pitchers yielded a total of five hits, but hurt themselves with 11 walks.
A-Rod, who had gone 55 at bats since last homering on Sept. 9 a Kansas City, circled the bases to a standing ovation after driving an 0-1 pitch from Jason Hammel off one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field in the third inning.
The stretch without a homer was A-Rod’s longest since he also went 55 at bats without one from May 27-June 15 last year.
The ball was still rising when it hit the ring about 115 feet above the field. The Devil Rays estimated the grand slam—the 16th of Rodriguez’s career and third this year—traveled 428 feet.
Trailing 5-0, the Devil Rays rallied to take a 6-5 lead in the sixth.
Navarro doubled off Edwar Ramirez to drive in Tampa Bay’s first run, and Bruney walked Akinori Iwamura with the bases loaded before giving up the first homer the 32-year-old Velandia had in 208 major league at bats spread out over six seasons.
“It’s a helpless feeling, there’s no question,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of the six walks issued by his bullpen. “You don’t give yourself a chance to get guys out. You look up there and they have four hits and we’ve got double digits, and we’ve got the same number of runs. That’s when you know you’re in the charity business.
New York tied in the eighth on Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice fly off Dan Wheeler, but the Yankees wasted an opportunity to regain the lead when Jeter struck out with runners at the corners after Damon singled.
“We’ve stood toe-to-toe to all the contenders: Boston, to Seattle, to L.A., then Boston and New York here, and I like the way our guys have gone about their business against them,” Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not about being the spoiler, it’s about learning how to play this time of the year. And our guys have risen to occasion.”
Clemens was scratched because of a lingering left hamstring injury. He tweaked the hamstring while running last Thursday and has pitched just once since Sept. 3, sidelined initially by a tender right elbow that required two cortisone shots.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the 45-year-old, seven-time Cy Young Award winner could have pitched Tuesday if it had been a must-win game.
“We’re just playing it smart,” Cashman said. “We’re looking at the big picture, and giving it more time to heal. The point is he’ll be better off with more time, and we’ll go from there.”
Igawa made his first start since pitching poorly in a loss at Kansas City on July 26. He worked out of a jam in the first after walking two and allowing the runners to move up on a wild pitch, then clung to New York’s 5-0 lead when he got Delmon Young to fly to center with the bases loaded in the third.
Rodriguez has scored 139 runs this season, most by a Yankee since Rickey Henderson scored 146 in 1985. With the bases loaded, he’s 7-for-14 with three homers and 25 RBIs. … Jeter’s RBI double in the first extended his hitting streak to 12 games. … Devil Rays LF Carl Crawford will not play again this season because of a left groin strain that’s already sidelined him for seven games. … Although Clemens won’t pitch the remainder of the regular season, Torre said he could throw in a simulated game before next week.