In a passion-filled, strategy-heavy game managers Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon waged as if it were October not April, the Yankees seemingly had the ultimate weapon to bring order to the whole nutty affair.Daily News:
It is not just that Girardi could put away his binder and go to Mariano Rivera with a one-run lead in the ninth. It was that he could go to Rivera against the Rays in a save situation. ... [Rivera] was 60-for-61 [against the Rays]. ...
When Girardi summoned a reliever with a 6-5 lead in the ninth to try to get the Yanks to 1-0 on the season, it was not Wade or Proctor who entered. It was the greatest ever giving up two runs in the ninth, getting beat around the park pretty good in the process. There were the Rays, 7-6 winners, piling upon each other in joy on April 6, 2012 with about the same euphoria that they had on Sept. 29, 2011.
What began relatively harmlessly — with the Rays raising their 2011 wild card banner as the Yankees, with their 27 world championships, no doubt looked on in bemusement — quickly evolved into a wild managerial chess match between Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon when neither of the team's aces, CC Sabathia and James (Big Game) Shields, had much. ...Daily News:
Now it was time for Girardi to do some of his own desperate damage control, removing Nick Swisher from right field and bringing in Eduardo Nunez to form a five-man infield after walking Evan Longoria and Luke Scott intentionally to load the bases. "A sac fly is going to win it so you're hoping to get a ground ball or a double play at that point," Girardi said.
Or even better a strikeout. And for a brief a few moments, it looked like Mo might get out of it, as he struck out Sean Rodriguez, bringing Carlos Pena, a whiff-master of the highest order, to the plate. But after also falling behind 1-2, Pena took a nice easy swing on another Rivera cutter that was just a tad high, and rocketed it into left-center over the drawn-in Yankee outfielders for the gamer. ...
[Rivera:] "You don't want to start off this way, but thank God it's only one game."
Joe Girardi says ordering an intentional walk in the first inning is not something he'd usually do. But this was CC Sabathia versus James Shields, after all, and runs can be dear when these aces meet. ...Post:
Girardi chose to have Sabathia intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez, who was 6-for-21 (.286) lifetime against the lefty, and instead pitch to Pena with the bases loaded. Pena, who entered the at-bat batting .114 lifetime (4-for-35) against Sabathia, including 11 strikeouts and no hits in his most recent 14 at-bats, slammed a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall for an instant 4-0 Tampa Bay lead.
Mariano Rivera ran a brush across a bald head that minutes earlier supported symbolic goat horns. ...Bob Klapisch, The Record:
Of course, it wasn't all Rivera's fault. Plagued by a misbehaving fastball early, Sabathia gave up five runs, eight hits and walked three (one intentional) in six innings.
The Yankees hitters, who spanked Shields for six runs and nine hits in five innings, went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, stranded a dozen runners and left the bases loaded three times.
Rivera is anything but young, no matter that he still looks as lean as a greyhound. Beginning his age-42 season, having all but announced his retirement after the 2012 season, the clock is running out on Rivera's brilliant career. ... [T]his was the start of Rivera's retirement party: What if his skills erode faster than he can complete his last lap?
Dark thought, sure, and the Yankees won't dare go there. But the cosmos picked a bad time to strip Rivera of its cloaking mechanism.