Yanks barely over .500 at halfway point

There was a point Monday night when it seemed like Joe Girardi was managing as if this was Game 7 of the World Series instead of a game in late June.

The score was 2-2 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances, the third of six Yankees pitchers in the game, had just walked two batters after two were out. Girardi hopped out of the dugout and made the call to David Robertson. Using his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game was certainly an indication that Girardi wanted to win this game badly.

Robertson and Betances have been the Yankees’ best relievers, but on this night neither got the job done. Robertson gave up a single to Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

You cannot fault Girardi. After losing two of three games to American League East rivals in each of their previous three series, the skipper wanted very much to get a victory at the start of this series, the fifth straight against division foes.

Brian Roberts gave the Yankees that opportunity with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth off Joel Peralta, whose blown save cost Yankee killer Chris Archer a winning decision.

Archer gave the Yankees his usual hard time, although he did blow a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier by giving up two runs in the bottom of the third. Archer asked for trouble by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning. He came around to score on a triple to right by Brett Gardner. The Rays conceded a run by playing the infield back against Derek Jeter, who obliged with one of his four ground balls to second base in the game that scored Gardner.

And there it stood until the eighth when the Rays scratched that run off Betances and Robertson. David Phelps had started for the Yankees and gave up the two long balls but otherwise was solid. Roberts’ homer hung a no-decision on Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA against the Yankees in his career, including 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Whatever lift Roberts’ shot gave the Yankees was short-lived. The Rays scored a run with two out in the 12th to send the Yankees to their third straight loss and put their record at 41-40 at the halfway mark of the season.

“It has been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had our share of issues in the first half, but we’re still in the thick of it.”

Rookie Jose Ramirez walked Brandon Guyer with two out in the 12th. Guyer’s steal of second base was crucial, putting him in position to score on a single to center by Logan Forsythe. Rays reliever Brad Boxberger retired the Yankees in order in both the 11th and the 12th and was the winning pitcher.

Tampa Bay has been hit hardest in the division by injuries but still presented a problem for the Yankees Monday night.

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