By Howard Godlin
BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 28- A very large crowd, 43,424, took advantage of a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July to relax outdoors and enjoy a major league baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Those who are pleased by viewing an extremely well-pitched, low scoring mound duel that moves quickly were in the right place on Saturday. Those who prefer high run totals boosted by home runs would have been disappointed by Saturday’s ballgame.
The two young hurlers, Ivan Nova, 26, and Chris Archer, 24, who started, easily handled the vast majority of batters they faced during the ballgame. Baserunners were few and far between.
The Rays scored the only run in the contest in the top of the sixth. Appropriately for such a masterly pitched game by both starters, the run was achieved by “small ball.”
With one out, James Loney raised his major league leading road batting average with his second single of the game. Loney is currently batting .371 in road games. The first sacker was forced at second on a ground ball by Ben Zobrist, who quickly stole second. Matt Joyce walked and Kelly Johnson drove in the lone run of the game with a single to center.
Before the game, Tampa skipper Joe Maddon decided to start Johnson in left rather than Sean Rodriguez, who started the previous night’s contest. After the game, the genial manager of the Rays commented, “The players make you look good.”
The loss was the second straight for Nova, neither of which he deserved to receive as the Yanks did not score a run in either contest. You cannot get a victory if your team is shutout. He only yielded the one run and six hits in seven innings.
Maddon described the game in the following honest words, “It was like a mid-60’s game at Yankee Stadium. It was incredible to watch, but our guy was just a little better.” Veteran catcher Yadier Molina of Tampa said of Nova, “He was really sharp today, curveballs, sliders.”
The Tampa starter has pitched outstandingly since his first start against the Yankees on June 23. The same two starting pitchers began that game with the win going to Archer and the Rays, 3-2. From that date, Archer is 5-0 and the Rays were victorious in all seven of his starts. The youngster gave up only seven earned runs in 48 innings during that period. His skills have improved as time has passed. He has only yielded one earned run during his last four starts (31 innings).
On Saturday, he threw his second complete game shutout in his last three starts. He did not walk a batter and only two Yankees recorded base hits, Lyle Overbay, a single in the fifth and Brett Gardner, a double in the sixth.
Maddon’s praise for his sterling rookie seemed endless, “Overall, it was a great mix with overwhelming stuff. He’s really growing and doing it against some really good teams. He was just [a success] waiting to happen. He’s in control of his emotions.”
Archer spoke about his emotions after the victory, “Stupendously amazing is how it feels. Our team’s just rolling along now [21 wins in the last 24 games]. It’s more fun now playing baseball than at any level.”
He gave credit for the advice given to him by Curt Schilling two days ago, “Schilling advised me to have a purpose for every pitch. I found myself doing that today.”
Although the pitching was superlative, the lack of Yankee hitting is disturbing to the team’s rooters. They have been held to two hits on four occasions in 2013.The Yankees have not homered in the last nine games. That homerless streak is the longest since 1984, when the Yanks hit no homers in 10 straight games.
The defeat placed the Yankees in their most precarious position of the season, eight games out of first place.
On Sunday, Mike Moore (14-3) will attempt to break the tie with Bártolo Colón and Max Scherzer and become the undisputed major league win leader. He will start against Phil Hughes (4-9) in the final game of the series and short homestand at Yankee Stadium. Prior to the game, there will be a special retirement ceremony to honor former Yankee Hideki Matsui.