Yankees, Rays play to a 3-3 tie in TampaPhelps pitches five scoreless innings in his third spring start
Phelps, who has now made all three of his spring starts on YES broadcast days, threw just under 60 pitches over five scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out one along the way. Phelps was never really in trouble, retiring nine in a row after Matt Joyce's one-out double in the first, getting a 3-6-1 double play to end the fourth after giving up a single to Wil Myers and then working around Sean Rodriguez's leadoff single in the fifth to lower his spring ERA to 1.86.
The game was scoreless until the seventh, when the Rays got two runs off non-roster invitee Bruce Billings. James Loney led off the inning with a ground-rule double, and Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead when Billings made a throwing error on Rodriguez's sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing Loney to score. Rodriguez then stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Ryan Hanigan would drive him in with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the frame, putting two on with one out when Alfonso Soriano singled and Kelly Johnson was hit by a pitch. Pinch-runners Ramon Flores and Russ Canzler each moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Brian Roberts then hit a sacrifice fly to cut the lead in half. The Yankees almost tied it up, but Jayson Nix made a great running play on Ichiro Suzuki's two-out dribbler and just nabbed the still-speedy Ichiro at first, ending the inning.
The Rays would get that run back in the eighth, thanks to a defensive miscue and a whole lot of hustle. With one out, Jeremy Moore hit a high pop fly that shortstop Dean Anna had trouble with. Moore ended up on second after Anna dropped the ball in short left field and would later advance to third on a wild pitch by Danny Burawa. Two batters later, Mike Mahtook smacked a single up the middle to score Moore and make it 3-1.
Once again, though, the Yankees would fight back, scoring one in their half of the eighth thanks to some hustle of their own and a miscue by the Rays. Jose Pirela singled to open the inning, and after a groundout moved him to second, Mason Williams hit a sharp single to right to put runners on the corners with one out. Anna was the next batter, and on a 2-2 count, Williams took off for second. The pitch was a ball, and when shortstop Hak-Ju Lee couldn't come up with the throw from catcher Eddy Rodriguez, Pirela hustled home as the ball skipped towards third base to make it 3-2.
They had a great opportunity to tack on some more after Anna walked to put runners on first and second, but Jeff Beliveau got John Ryan Murphy to fly out for the second out. C.J. Riefenhauser came in and got Flores to pop out to Lee to end the inning.
Riefenhauser would get two quick outs in the ninth to put the Yankees on the brink of a loss, but they had one final rally in them, starting with Jose Gil's single to keep the game alive. Pirela followed with a single of his own to move the tying run over to third. Scott Sizemore then came up to pinch-hit for Williams, but Rays reliever Braulio Lara did the work for him, sailing a breaking ball high and off the glove of Rodriguez to allow pinch-runner Antoan Richardson to score from third.
Sizemore would ground out to end the inning, and both Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon agreed to play one more inning to try to break the 3-3 tie. However, Mark Montgomery and Merrill Kelly each pitched perfect tenth innings for their squads, leaving the game to end in a deadlock.
Offensively, the Yankees had nine hits, with Alfonso Soriano going 2-for-3, Pirela going 2-for-2, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann each registering a hit. Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran were both 0-for-3, Johnson was 0-for-2 -- plus the hit by pitch -- and Roberts was 0-for-2 with his sac fly accounting for the Yankees' only recorded RBI.
On the mound, Dellin Betances relieved Phelps and worked around a one-out double to pitch a scoreless sixth. After Billings and Burawa, Matt Daley struck out two in a perfect ninth and Montgomery sent the Rays down 1-2-3 in the tenth.
The tie, the Yankees' first of the spring, gives them a record of 7-4-1 in Grapefruit League play and 8-4-1 overall on the spring. Monday is an off day for the Bombers, and on Tuesday they will head across the Sunshine State to Viera to begin a stretch of nine games in six days. That first tilt is a 1:05 p.m. start against the Nationals, with CC Sabathia scheduled to start and Mark Teixeira, McCann, Brett Gardner and Ellsbury among the big names scheduled to travel.