Despite a match-up that looked to heavily favor the Rays -- expected Yankees' starter Phil Hughes was replaced by Hector Noesi, and had to face James Shields -- the Yankees came out on top. And while it pains me to be happy about an outcome where this is the case, Boston needs that to happen, just like they did last night.
Noesi lasted just 2-2/3 innings, but the seven other pitchers did their parts to get through all nine frames. All told, it was a dominating effort, as the group combined for 10 strikeouts , two walks and just the two runs over the course of the game.
That loss increases Boston's lead to 2.5 games, and drops Tampa Bay to 5-5 in their last 10. Since last Monday, Boston's last day off, the Red Sox are 3-6, but the Rays are 4-5, so neither team is exactly doing what needs to be done. Another loss tonight by the Rays would mean they at least remain 2.5 back of Boston, and now with just seven games to play, four of those against New York.
The best possible outcome is pairing a second Rays' loss with a Red Sox win tonight, as it would put Boston 3.5 up on the Wild Card with seven to go. With the way they have been playing, it's not enough to make us relax completely, but at least we could all breathe a little easier.
Tampa Bay will attempt to avoid falling any further behind by throwing rookie hurler Jeremy Hellickson against New York's best, CC Sabathia, who is looking for his 20th victory of the year.