Yankees run out of dramatic comebacks

The Yankees went nearly half the 2015 season before they won a game in their last at-bat, which had not occurred since Derek Jeter’s walk-off hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium last September. Then to start off the Fourth of July Weekend, the Yankees pulled off back-to-back walk-off victories over the American League East rival Rays.

Friday, it was the powerful swing of Brian McCann, whose three-run home run in the bottom of the 12th inning sent the Yankees to a 7-5 triumph. Saturday, it was the churning legs of pinch runner Jose Pirela, who raced from second base to home to score on an errant throw to first base by pitcher Brad Boxberger to complete a 3-2 victory.

It appeared as if the Yankees would wrap that game as a shutout up without batting in the ninth, but Dellin Betances was tagged for a two-run home run by Steven Souza in the top of the inning that tied the score. It was only the second blown save this season by Betances, who has done a solid job in the closer role while Andrew Miller has been on the 15-day disabled list. It was the first home run Betances allowed since Aug. 13 last year at Baltimore by Jonathan Schoop, a 54-game stretch covering 59 2/3 innings.

There would be no such comeback Sunday, however, as the Rays ran with an early lead, built on it and ended a seven-game losing streak by coasting, 8-1. The Yankees managed only three hits – all for extra bases, including Alex Rodriguez’s 16th home run, which accounted for their scoring.

This game got out of hand in the eighth inning when the Rays staged a four-run rally that began when Pirela, Saturday’s hero, made two errors on the same play. He had just entered the game at second base after having pinch-hit for Stephen Drew the previous inning. A bases-loaded walk by Chris Capuano added to the unsightly frame.

One positive showing from the bullpen was another impressive outing by Nick Rumbelow, who retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the ninth.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova hurt himself with a throwing error that cost him one of the four runs he allowed in five shaky innings. After two impressive outings since coming back from Tommy John surgery, Nova had his first ineffective performance, although the Yankees were still within reach until the eighth.

In Nova’s past two starts, Yankees batters have had just three hits while he was on the mound – one Sunday and two last Tuesday night at Anaheim. Nova is 0-5 with a 4.71 ERA in his past six starts against Tampa Bay dating to June 23, 2013 after having gone 6-1 in his first nine career games (eight starts) against the Rays.

Tampa Bay starter Erasmo Ramirez (7-3) held the Yanks in check for six innings. He did walk three batters, hit one and committed an error, but the A-Rod homer (career No. 670) was the only damage the righthander suffered. Since joining the starting rotation May 14, Ramirez is 7-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 starts and 54 innings.

The Yankees scored only one run for the fourth time in their past seven games and one or less for the fifth time in their past 10 games since June 25. From May 19 through June 24, they were held to one or fewer runs just twice in 33 games (none May 31 at Oakland and one June 15 at Miami). Rodriguez is finding the Stadium quite comfortable. In his past nine home games since June 19, A-Rod is batting .406 with seven runs, one double, four home runs and 12 RBI in 32 at-bats.

Equally as comfortable at the Stadium, unfortunately for the Yankees, is James Loney. The Rays first baseman, who had a two-run single off Nova in the first inning, is a career .402 hitter in 112 at-bats at Yankee Stadium. He ranks third among visiting players with a minimum of 50 at-bats at the Stadium behind only Justin Morneau (.433 in 60 at-bats) and Kurt Suzuki (.411 in 56 at-bats). In 55 career games against the Yankees in all venues, Loney is batting .340 with an .857 on-base plus slugging in 212 at-bats. That is Yankee Killer stuff.

The Yanks may have failed to pull off a sweep but they maintained a hold on first place in the AL East by 1 ½ games over the Orioles and two over the Rays and Blue Jays.

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