The Rays cobbled together an eighth-inning run off Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman on a run-scoring single by Adeiny Hechavarria, who won Tuesday’s game with a home run off Sonny Gray. But after walking the leadoff hitter in the ninth, Chapman rebounded to strike out the next three hitters to nail down a tense victory.
So ended a somewhat surreal sojourn to Flushing for the Yankees and Rays, who were forced to find another home for this series when they were displaced from St. Petersburg by Hurricane Irma. Game 3 of the series, played like Monday’s game with just the lower tier of the ballpark open, drew the smallest crowd of all: 13,159.
Tampa Bay found Citi Field less than hospitable, since the Rays had to play in front of vociferously pro-Yankee crowds in all three games and lost two of them, putting a serious gash in their meager American League wild-card hopes.
Meanwhile, the Yankees nudged a half-game closer to the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East race, trailing by three and a half games pending the result of Boston’s game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.
Garcia, who had allowed 44 base runners and run up a 5.11 earned run average in his first 24⅔ innings as a Yankee since being acquired in a trade for two minor league pitchers on July 29, held the Rays to five hits, two of them infield singles.
Garcia surrendered a long solo home run to Kevin Kiermaier leading off the third inning, and when Lucas Duda singled with two out in the fifth, Girardi decided not to push his luck with Evan Longoria, who has made a career of tormenting Yankees pitchers, with 35 home runs, 104 runs batted in and a .279 batting average in 164 career games against them, due to hit.
So Girardi summoned Chad Green, his new favorite in the bullpen, and he got Longoria to fly out before striking out all three batters he faced in the sixth inning. Girardi could be seen speaking intensely to Garcia in the Yankees’ dugout after taking him out of the game.
As for the Yankees’ three runs, they came on a run-scoring single in the second inning by Todd Frazier and a two-run single by Brett Gardner. Archer, who struggled with his command, narrowly escaped further damage an inning later by striking out Clint Frazier with the bases loaded. But after allowing a double to Gary Sanchez leading off the fifth, Rays Manager Kevin Cash removed him from the game. It was the second straight poor outing for Archer, who allowed eight runs to the Red Sox in three innings last Friday.
The Yankees also failed to cash in on a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the eighth when Frazier fouled out and Austin Romine struck out. They got runners to second and third in the ninth, but failed to score when Starlin Castro popped out. But the three early runs were enough on a day the Yankees were holding back just a little bit.
Manager Joe Girardi said Greg Bird was not likely to play again until Friday, when the Baltimore Orioles are expected to start a right-hander in the second game of their four-game visit to Yankee Stadium. Girardi also acknowledged that recurring injuries to Bird have become a concern. Bird missed 103 games this season because of a lingering ankle injury that eventually required surgery and has missed the last two after experiencing back spasms during batting practice before Monday’s game.
“I still think he’s an everyday first baseman who could have a big impact, but obviously you’ve got to stay on the field, first and foremost,” Girardi said. “I think when we’ve seen him healthy, we’ve seen him be very productive. But you got to be able to stay healthy.”