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Somewhere around the eighth inning of Tuesday night's dismal 7-4 loss to the Rays, we figured out why the Yankees have had such a hard time winning in Tampa.
The Yankees hold spring training in the city, of course, and it feels like more than mere coincidence that they have now lost nine straight regular season games there. It feels like something about going back to Tampa makes the Yankees revert to the rusty form of February when they are still trying to round themselves into form.
How else can you explain Russell Martin's night? Martin made two errors that led to five runs and both of them were of the variety that you wouldn't even write off during a split-squad game.
Martin dropped a ball at home plate after tagging out a runner trying to score, giving the Rays their first run and keeping the inning alive long enough for them to score twice more with two outs. He then airmailed a ball into center while trying to nab a basestealer, a decision that let the runner from third come home and sent the original target to third and, eventually, home.
Third-base coach Rob Thomson didn't look any more ready for games that count when he sent Robinson Cano to the plate on Raul Ibanez's sixth-inning double. The Rays played the ball well in the outfield, Cano didn't get any kind of outlandish jump on the play and the throw wound up beating him by enough space to make some studio-dwelling New Yorkers jealous.
Cano wasn't much better when left to his own devices in the first inning. With one out and two runs in, Cano broke from first on a Nick Swisher fly out and never returned because he seemed to think that baseball changed their rules regarding the number of outs needed to end an inning.
Sloppy, sloppy stuff all around and more than enough to send them to a defeat even if Ivan Nova pitched a good game. Even when you account for the lack of help provided by Martin, Nova looked like he was throwing a side session on a back field at the Yankees training complex.
The Yankees had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Rays this week. That's a July concern, though, so it didn't fit with the spring training mentality they've shown in the first two games.
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