Yankees crush Red Sox, claim AL East lead over O’s

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The Yankees exploded for nine runs in the second on the way to a 10-2 victory over the Red Sox on Monday and moved a game up on the Orioles for first place in the AL East after Baltimore lost to Tampa Bay 5-3.

The Bombers hit four homers as part of their huge frame, with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Mark Teixeira all going deep.

Martin’s homer was somewhat controversial, as a fan — in a Red Sox shirt, no less — reached over the wall with his cap in an attempt to haul it in. The ball, though, ended up bouncing off his wrist, suggesting that it would have hit off the top of the wall and bounced over if not for the interference. It was ruled a homer on the field, and the call went unchanged after being reviewed.

The Red Sox bounced back to outscore the Yankees 2-1 over the rest of the game, giving them something to build on for… no, really, who am I kidding?

CC Sabathia cruised to his 15th victory, allowing two runs and four hits in eight innings against a lineup that included two regulars (Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia). Clay Buchholz allowed eight of the nine runs in the second and was pulled after 1 2/3.

Tampa Bay’s win was much closer, and it at least temporarily kept the Rays in postseason contention, pending Oakland’s result tonight. Alex Cobb allowed just one run and two hits in seven innings to improve to 11-9. Rookie Wei-Yin Chen gave up four runs — one earned — in 6 2/3 innings to take the loss, leaving him 12-11.

Fernando Rodney broke his tie with Dennis Eckersley and is now in position to sport the lowest ERA of all-time after pitching a scoreless ninth for his 47th save. He’s at 0.605, down from 0.614 to begin the day. The Rays wanted to get through the game without using Rodney, but after entering to begin the ninth, Kyle Farnsworth gave up a single and a homer in what had been a 5-1 game.

The Orioles will now need some help from the Red Sox to avoid slipping into the wild card position. The Rays still have a slight chance at the second wild card, but they’ll need the A’s to lose three straight to Texas.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.