ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — New York starter Jameson Taillon zipped through the Tampa Bay lineup quickly Friday night, allowing just two hits in eight innings in a snappy 2-0 win at Tropicana Field.
The game flew by, lasting just two hours and 23 minutes, the second-fastest nine-inning game all season for either team.
"Yeah, 2:23 is really good. Too bad we started at 7, I could have made it to Bern's (Steak House),'' Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
The game went so fast because the pitching on both sides was exceptional. Taillon, who joined the Yankees last year after four years with Pittsburgh, needed only 93 pitches to put the game away, and didn't walk a single batter. Closer Clay Holmes, who hasn't given up a run since Opening Day, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
The only Tampa Bay hits turned out to be inconsequential, too. Taillon, who retired the first 12 batters he faced, gave up a single to Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena to lead off the fifth inning, but he was immediately caught stealing.
Manuel Margot led off the sixth with a double, stretching his career-best hitting streak to 14 games, but second baseman Vidal Brujan fouled out, catcher Mike Zunino lined out to second and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier struck out to end the threat.
And that was it.
"He was great. He was pitch efficient and always on attack,'' Boone said of Taillon. "And I thought the defense around him was really good, had a number of really good plays around the horn. He was pretty sharp. They sprinkled in some hard contact against him, and he set a good tone for our defense.''
Tampa Bay starter Jeffrey Springs matched Taillon pitch for pitch early. He was perfect through the first two innings, and worked through a two-on, one-out jam in the third without allowing a run.
But things unraveled in the fourth. Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres hit a massive 438-foot homer into the seats in left-center and then, two batters later, newly acquired Matt Carpenter homered to right.
They were the only runs of the game, but they were more than enough because the Rays never threatened against Taillon and Holmes. He got his sixth save by striking out Brujan, getting pinch-hitter Francisco Mejia to ground out to first and Kiermaier to strike out.
Kiermaier, who had 13 hits in his last five games but didn't play in Thursday night's 7-2 Yankees win against left-handed starter Nestor Cortes, went 0-for-4 Friday night.
He wasn't alone though. In the last two nights, the Rays have been shut out in the first eight innings of both games. (They scored two in the ninth Thursday while trailing by seven runs.)
Not counting the ninth inning on Thursday, the Rays have gone 5-for-55 in the first two games of this important — at least for late May — series. That's an .091 average.
The Yankees' rotation, which was questioned in the spring when there were worries about its depth, has been great all year, and the Rays have seen plenty of that the first two nights. Taillon is now 5-1 with a 2.49 earned run average. He was 8-6 a year ago with a 4.30 ERA.
Cortes, last night's starter, is 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA. He only won two games a year ago. Those questions marks are quickly fading away.
"They've been the best group in the league,'' Boone said. "I will caution that it's still early and we've got to keep doing it, but I'm not surprised that they're all doing what they are doing. I know what they're all capable of, and how together they all are. It's good to see them taking pride in their day and stepping up.''
The Rays (26-19) are now 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. It's the largest deficit they've seen in the division since they were seven games out to end the 2019 season. The Rays won the AL East in both 2020 and 2021.
The Yankees (33-13) just keep cruising along. They have the best record in baseball by far — the Los Angeles Dodgers are next at 30-14 — and they're doing it with dominating pitching and the long ball. They are first in team ERA and home runs.
The Rays haven't figured them out yet, but they get two more shots. The two teams meet again on Saturday at 4:10 ET, and will wrap up the first of six series this season on Sunday at 1:10 pm. ET
"I thought Springs threw the ball really, really well, and I thought those two pitches (on the home runs) were really good, well-located pitches at the top of the zone,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "They seeked the pitch out, recognized it and got it.
The Rays' hitters ''are in a little rut,'' Cash said. "We've got to find a way to get the offense going. It's not just on one guy.''
Related stories on Rays baseball
- JUST FOR STARTERS: Here's our breakdown on Tampa Bay starter Jeffrey Springs, with his numbers from Friday night in our ''Just For Starters'' feature, including cumulative stats on the starting rotation all season. Now includes video of his postgame press conference as well. CLICK HERE
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- 1-2 PUNCH WITH McCLANAHAN, RASMUSSEN: The argument can be made that Tampa Bay starters Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen are the best one-two punch in the American League, and they've been really good the past month or so. Their numbers are exceptional, and here's our comparison of the best pair of pitchers in the league. CLICK HERE
- RAYS 2022 SCHEDULE: Here is the complete 2022 schedule for the Tampa Bay Rays, with results and stats from every game far, and dates, locations and gametimes for the rest of the season. CLICK HERE
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) looks on during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) looks on while on deck during the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Matt Carpenter was called up by the New York Yankees to fill some gaps in the roster created by injuries. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jeffrey Springs (59) throws a pitch during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeffrey Springs (59) throws a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports