Alex Rodriguez became K-Rod as he struck out four times in six at-bats Wednesdayon a day when the Yankees offense put Joe Girardi on the defensive in a 3-2 loss to the Rays in 13 innings.
The Rays scored the winning run off Chasen Shreve, the Yankees' seventh pitcher, when, with two outs, James Loney's ground ball went through the second-base hole and scored Steven Souza Jr. from second. Stephen Drew fielded the ball in short rightfield, thought momentarily about throwing to first, then made a throw to the plate but could not get Souza.
Tampa Bay pitching combined to fan 16 Yankees, but the batter put on the spot was Rodriguez. "He just had a really good game on Sunday night [two hits against the Mets], we forget that one already?" Girardi said. "I mean if If I had to answer every time a guy had a bad day at the plate, golly we'd be here a long time. We'd be talking about every hitter that we have."'
Girardi spoke about how tough it was for the Yankees to figure out Rays lefthanded starter Drew Smyly, who struck out 10, including Rodriguez thrice in six innings. "It seemed like he used his two different breaking balls extremely well today," the manager said. "And it looked like it was tough for our hitters to pick it up."
Rodriguez agreed, saying, "I certainly didn't pick it up, he had my number, that's for sure." John Ryan Murphy fanned three times, Gregorio Petit and Didi Gregorius twice each.
Rodriguez, who had hoped to tie Willie Mays for fourth on the career home run list with 660 on the last day of the homestand, instead accepted the blame on behalf of his teammates. "Today was definitely a tough day for our offense and specifically me" he said.
Girardi defended his designated hitter. "It's just kind of what you go through as a hitter," he said. "There's going to be times you're extremely hot and there's going to be times when you're not swinging as well. You hope when you're not swinging as well the other guys can pick you up a little bit."
Smyly was staked to a 2-0 lead when Yankees starter Michael Pineda, moved up a day for the injured Masahiro Tanaka, gave up a two-run triple to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth. Pineda gave up six hits and was removed with two outs in the sixth after throwing 93 pitches. The bullpen held the Rays hitless until Loney's game-winner.
Against Smyly, Chase Headley homered in the fifth and Chris Young tied the game in the sixth with his fifth homer.
Rodriguez's first strikeout came in the opening inning with Jacoby Ellsbury, who had three hits, on third with one out. Ellsbury was stranded when Mark Teixeira struck out.
Rodriguez was glad to see Smyly leave. "After he left the game I actually felt a lot better, even though the results weren't any better," he said. Rodriguez grounded out in the ninth and was fanned in the 11th by Brandon Gomes.
The Yankees had a flicker in their last at-bat against Ernesto Frieri when Young hit a one-out single ahead of Rodriguez. He hit a grounder to short that was turned into a game-ending double play.
With Teixeira -- who leads the team with eight home runs -- on deck, perhaps it would have been better if Rodriguez had struck out a fifth time.