Sports Outside the Beltway

Yanks fail to clinch

by Brian Hoch -

The Yankees’ fight back to relevance was one filled with gritty and unexpected battles. It somehow seemed appropriate that they would have to fight one more before tasting some sweet celebration.

Dioner Navarro’s solo home run off Jeff Karstens in the 10th inning lifted the Devil Rays to a 7-6 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday at Tropicana Field, postponing a potential clinching game for New York’s 13th consecutive postseason appearance.

Buoyed by Alex Rodriguez’s grand slam and five scoreless — if not shaky — innings from Kei Igawa, the Yankees carried a four-run lead into the sixth inning, but New York’s bullpen gave it back. Edwar Ramirez allowed three baserunners and recorded just one out before light-hitting September callup Jorge Velandia reached Brian Bruney for his first career home run, a grand slam into the left-field seats that put the Rays up, 6-5.

Not to be denied, the Yankees tied the game against reliever Dan Wheeler in the eighth. Jorge Posada doubled to left and Robinson Cano singled to center, moving pinch-runner Bronson Sardinha to third base. After pinch-hitter Jason Giambi struck out, Melky Cabrera brought the tying run home with a sacrifice fly to left field.

New York’s first five innings on defense were dodgy, as Igawa — filling in for Roger Clemens, who was shut down for the remainder of the regular season with a left hamstring injury — made his first start since July 26. Igawa was not especially sharp, walking five and throwing a wild pitch, but he allowed just two hits while pitching out of trouble. Ramirez allowed Tampa Bay’s first run in the sixth on a Navarro double.

Rodriguez put the Yankees ahead early with his third grand slam of the season and the 16th of his career, a shot off Rays starter Jason Hammel in the third inning that clipped the top of the second “C Ring” above the left-field stands, bouncing back onto the field as four Yankees circled the bases. The home run was Rodriguez’s 53rd of the season, moving him into sole possession of seventh place on the Yankees’ all-time single-season home run list.

Johnny Damon contributed a career-high five hits and Derek Jeter extended his hitting streak to 12 games for the Yankees, who are trying to keep a streak alive of making the playoffs in every season of Joe Torre’s era as manager. They have not missed the postseason since the strike-shortened season of 1994.

Just looking at Brian Bruney makes me sick. The magic number remains at one…

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