The Rays Win Round Four

The Yankees and Rays have played eleven times over four series this year. Each team has taken two of those series, with Tampa Bay boasting a slim 6-5 lead overall. The regular-season winner (between these teams, and of the division and the league) won’t be decided until September, when they’ll meet seven more times. (And again, don’t yet count out Boston.) But the true champion may not be determined until October.

With four months in the books, it’s apparent that these are, as their records would indicate, the two strongest teams in the American League, if not in all of baseball. But this weekend, at least, Tampa looked to be the better team. The Rays pitching impressed, as it tends to do: Building a rally of three or four base-runners seemed nearly impossible all weekend. Home runs by Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano may have erased the one Javier Vazquez allowed to Matt Joyce on Saturday, but Phil Hughes got no bailout on Friday after Joyce’s devastating three-run homer, and CC Sabathia got no support at all yesterday in his duel with James Shields.

It wasn’t a lost weekend for the Yankees, of course. They added some new faces — more on them later today — and for all the talk of Tampa Bay’s unbeatable bullpen, the Yankees relievers had the better series. If only they had leads to protect.

Alex Rodriguez again failed to hit his 600th home run, and though he’s still saying all the right things, he’s not getting on base like he was in the days immediately after homer No. 599. He didn’t start yesterday, and went hitless for the weekend in Tampa. Against all odds, he’ll have the chance to hit his milestone home run in the Bronx after all, when the Yankees open a seven-game home stand tonight against Toronto.

The Rays Win Round Four