ST. PETERSBURG — C.J. Riefenhauser verses Dean Anna is not exactly the matchup people think of when it comes to the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, especially with the bases-loaded and two out in the top of the 12th inning with the score tied.
But that was the matchup Rays manager Joe Maddon wanted when he had Riefenhauser walk Jacoby Ellsbury intentionally with a runner on first to load the bases, and it’s the matchup Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted based on what he knows of his young shortstop.
Riefenhauser can throw strikes when he has to, and Anna consitently has good at-bats.
Also, the two rookies were glad to be in the middle of the biggest at-bat in Sunday’s game.
“You dream about it,” Riefenhauser said.
“Baseball is all about moments, and that was a moment right there,” Anna said.
The moment belonged to Anna, who worked the count full and checked his swing to draw a walk that forced in the go-ahead run in the Yankees 5-1, 12-inning victory.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria started for the dugout, and catcher Jose Molina asked for an appeal from third base umpire Marty Foster, who said Anna had held up in time.
“I don’t know,” Maddon said. “There’s so many different interpretations of the check swing, and from my perspective his hands were so far in front of home plate. I know there are umpires who when they see that are going to call it a strike, and (on Sunday) it was not called a strike. It’s one of the more inconsistent, ill-defined rules in all of baseball. I’m not blaming the umpires. I’m not doing that at all right now. I’m saying it really varies from umpire to umpire.”
Said Anna: “(I’m) 100 percent positive I didn’t swing.”
Said Riefenhauser: “I don’t know. It was close. I guess not.”
Jose Lueke repalced Riefenhauser and allowed a pair of hits that scored three more runs as the Yankees won the final game of the four-game series in front of an Easter Sunday crowd of 26,462 at Tropicana Field.
After scoring 27 runs on 32 hits during the previous two nights, the Rays managed only one run against Yankees reliever-turned-starter Vidal Nuno and five relievers.
“I don’t know,” Maddon said when asked about the lack of runs. “Easter Sunday, something happened. We had been swinging the bats so well. (Sunday) we were minus. There’s really no solid explanation. I can’t stand here and say the Yankees pitched that great. We did not have a good offensive day.”
The Rays had their chances, putting the leadoff hitter on in the ninth, 11th and 12th innings but could not come up with the big hit.
Meanwhile, the Rays pitchers, beginning with startter Cesar Ramos (one run in five innings) were just as stingy.