Tampa Bay Rays
Nova, Yankees push Rays further back
NEW YORK - There is a banjo and a fiddle, certainly a harmonica. They play when the Rays are batting, providing an all-too-familiar soundtrack to an all-too-familiar outcome. Not enough offense, and the Rays lose again. On Saturday it was a 5-3 loss to the Yankees in a game in which starting pitcher James Shields wasn’t his sharpest, but wasn’t hit hard, either. Not that it mattered."We’ve sang this song," manager Joe Maddon said. "I’m sure we could make a nice country western song out of this whole thing." Add a pickup truck, a dog, some rain and maybe some good ol’ Sunday cooking. "Between your dog and your pickup, we came up short again," Maddon said. And, Maddon added, that would be the title to the 2012 season unless something dramatically changes during the last 17 games. "We came up short again." The loss was the Rays’ fourth in the first games of this six-game trip that ends today and denied them an opportunity to pick up another game on the Yankees. Shields, who lost for only the second time in his past eight starts, allowed back-to-back home runs in the second inning — a two-run homer by Curtis Granderson followed by Eduardo Nuñez’s first home run of the year. The Yankees added to that lead in the fifth inning when Ichiro Suzuki singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a single by Derek Jeter. "I felt like I made a bad pitch to Nuñez," Shields said. "I felt the pitch to Granderson was a good pitch. I went back and looked at it on the video. It was down and away, it was on the black. He’s just a good hitter. Obviously with this short porch he’s going to try and pop it out over there, but he put a good swing on that. "Obviously, the Jeter at-bat I thought he went on that two-strike curveball and then he got a jam shot up the middle. Sometimes those mistakes will cost you in the game." Rays hitters had trouble with Yankees starter Ivan Nova, who came off the disabled list because of inflammation in his rotator cuff and improved to 5-1 against Tampa Bay, including 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA at Yankee Stadium. "Whatever was bothering him is not bothering him now," Maddon said. Evan Longoria put the Rays on the board with a solo home run in the sixth inning off Nova and a pinch-hit, two-run single by Luke Scott off Joba Chamberlain made it a one-run game in the seventh. But Maddon exhausted nearly all of his bench options during that rally in hopes of getting the lead, leaving Stephen Vogt, hitless in his 17 career big-league at-bats, as one of his pinch-hitters in the ninth with the Rays down by two. "Again, it’s the offense," Longoria said. "We’ve asked a lot from the pitching staff the whole year, and can’t say it enough. We got to get hits, we got to produce runs and however we have to do it we have to do it. The time is now." The Rays’ best chance to get back into the game came in the seventh when a leadoff single by Jeff Keppinger chased Nova. Maddon used three pinch-hitters that inning, and the only one to come through was Scott. Longoria said before Friday’s game that the Rays had to win two of three in the series. That makes this afternoon’s finale an important game. "We don’t have a lot of time," Longoria said. "I’m not going to say that anymore. We don’t have a lot of time left. We continue to lose we’re going to find ourselves mathematically eliminated pretty quickly."