Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Yankees rally on Tampa Bay Rays' bullpen to win rubber game

ST. PETERSBURG — They have their health, manager Joe Maddon said, so there's nothing else to worry about. But nine games into The Season After, the Rays bullpen has some issues, too, and maybe some cause for concern.

Tuesday, it was a tie game that became a five-run defeat. Wednesday was worse, as Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Troy Percival combined to turn a one-run lead into a one-run loss they called "tough" and "disappointing."

The Yankees left for their historic home opener with a 4-3 victory and a series win that veteran Andy Pettitte said was important because "We're gonna have to show we can beat them; it's not like we're the defending American League champions."

The Rays (4-5) were left to wonder what, if anything, is wrong with a bullpen that was such a key part of that success.

"I don't know that there's really a reason so far," Percival said. "You get into a funk sometimes, just like you get on a roll. …

"I've seen this happen before and still end up with one of the best bullpens in the league. I wouldn't read into too much unless this goes on for another two or three weeks or something, then this might need to be addressed."

The numbers are ugly, with two losses, a 5.63 ERA and 39 baserunners in 24 innings. Maddon isn't showing any worry, though he rarely does lest the players pick up on it, insisting that with time — "It's very early; we're still getting our feet on the ground" — the relievers will regain their dominance. The extended workload of last season could be a factor, as could the slow pace the relievers were on this spring to compensate for it.

"My biggest concern is always health," Maddon said. "If somebody is not healthy and they're struggling, it's a different issue. If they are healthy and struggling a bit, it just depends on your confidence level. Or maybe you just need more work. So these guys are gonna be just fine."

Wednesday was setting up just as Maddon had scripted it. After five innings from Andy Sonnanstine, five outs from newcomer Joe Nelson and one big out from Balfour, the Rays, playing without slugger Evan Longoria, took a 3-2 lead to the eighth.

But Balfour, who has not looked as aggressive or overpowering as last season, allowed a leadoff double to Derek Jeter. Howell, who talked after the game about still "recovering" from last season, fell behind Johnny Damon and gave up another double that tied the score.

Brian Shouse, the other new addition, got the first out of the ninth. But Percival, in his second adventurous appearance following an injury-shortened 2008 and offseason back surgery, failed to get his part done.

His velocity was okay, in the 89-92 mph range, but his command wasn't. He gave up a double to No. 8 hitter Cody Ransom then, a hard out later, wanted to work Jeter inside but left a fastball over the plate that the Yankees captain turned into a run-scoring single.

"I didn't make the pitch," Percival said. "I'm fine. There's no physical issue at all. My back is fine. My arm is fine. … It was all execution. It wasn't stupidity by any means. I knew what I was trying to do and I didn't execute it."

It has been a common problem.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Yankees 4

Rays 3

FAST FACTS

Enough relief?

Here is how the Rays relievers have done so far:

PitcherW-LERAIPHRBBK

Grant Balfour0-021.601.23431

Lance Cormier0-03.385.14332

J.P. Howell0-14.154.17215

Joe Nelson0-00.005.03037

Troy Percival0-110.801.23210

Brian Shouse0-03.0033101

Dan Wheeler0-012.0035403

Totals0-25.632428161119

Yankees rally on Tampa Bay Rays' bullpen to win rubber game 04/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2009 4:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mike Evans stands behind Michael Bennett

    Blogs

    Bucs receiver Mike Evans was signing autographs for children after Bucs practice on Saturday. As he signed, he talked about Seattle defensive and former Buc Michael Bennett, who last Friday sat during the national anthem and who says he will continue to do so to fight racial injustice.

    Mike Evans, left, hauls in a pass in front of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
  2. Man, I miss Planet Simeon

    Blogs

    Simeon Rice, right, works with Bucs defensive end Ryan Russell.
  3. Bucs roundtable: Time for another kicking panic?

    Bucs

    Five days after the beleaguered Roberto Aguayo got cut after missing a PAT and a field goal, new Bucs kicker Nick Folk had a PAT blocked and missed a field goal.

  4. The Bloomingdale's that a Ruth baseball built

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — A treasure, possibly worth half a million dollars, could lie behind a granite slab at the base of the Bloomingdale's flagship store in Manhattan in New York City, just a few feet from a window displaying designer handbags: a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.

    According to reports from 1930, this cornerstone of Bloomingdale's flagship store in New York City could have a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and other items entombed with instructions not to open for 200 years. The Ruth ball, if there and in good condition, could be worth a record $500,000. [ New York Times]