Hellickson's rocky fifth proves costly in finale

Offense comes up short against dominant Kuroda, Yankees bullpen

Hellickson's rocky fifth proves costly in finale

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jeremy Hellickson had the magic going. There were 4 2/3 innings of no-hit, no-run baseball in the rearview mirror when a single walk changed the texture of his outing.

That walk led to a three-run fifth inning and the Yankees came away with a 4-2 victory over the Rays on Sunday at Tropicana Field, taking the rubber game of their three-game weekend series. In the process, the Rays ended their club-record streak of 12 straight games allowing three runs or fewer.

The Rays started the series on a high note Friday night by moving to .500 with a 5-0 win over the Yankees, but the Yankees fought back to take the next two.

The Rays got busy early Sunday afternoon when Evan Longoria grounded out in the first against Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda to drive home Ben Zobrist, giving Hellickson a 1-0 lead. And the Rays starter ran with it, posting 4 2/3 scoreless innings in which the Yankees did not get a hit.

But the bottom fell out for Hellickson with two outs in the fifth. Stephen Drew walked on a 3-2 pitch then Martin Prado doubled down the left-field line to give the Yankees runners in scoring position. Brett Gardner then singled through the middle to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. A Derek Jeter single moved Gardner to third before Jacoby Ellsbury singled him home to give the Yankees a two-run cushion.

"The walk, the walk to Drew was huge," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "... He was in great shape. Walked him, Prado had a great series against us offensively and defensively, that was a big knock right there. ... It really came down to the walk to Drew that really set the game the other way."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi liked what he saw in the fifth.

"You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat, along with Prado, a long at-bat, as well," Girardi said. "Gardy gets the big hit there, as well as Jeter's, so to be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he's rolling along with the no-hitter, it's big."

Hellickson used 38 pitches to escape the fifth and did not return to pitch the sixth.

When asked what he would do differently in the same situation against Drew, Hellickson replied: "Throw a strike."

Maddon observed that Hellickson "was totally within his abilities to finish that inning off and have nothing happen" because he was throwing the ball so well.

"And that's what happened," Maddon said. "And again, when you don't score any runs, you're going to dwell on this even more."

Meanwhile, Kuroda continued to cruise, using just 71 pitches to go through six innings.

"Sharp, velocity was up," said Maddon of Kuroda. "The splitter was really good and the slider was located. That's as good as I've seen him in a while. He pitched really, really well."

The Yankees right-hander retired 17 straight Rays after Longoria's RBI before Matt Joyce opened the seventh with a double to right. Given the opportunity, the Rays capitalized.

Joyce advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Longoria singled to left. The Rays continued to threaten when Longoria advanced to third on two groundouts before Vince Belnome drew a two-out walk to finally chase Kuroda.

Brandon Guyer was announced as the Rays pinch-hitter before the Yankees called to the bullpen for Shawn Kelley and the hard-throwing right-hander got the job done, striking out Guyer swinging to end the inning.

Mark Teixeira answered for the Yankees in the eighth with his 20th home run of the season, a solo shot to right on an 0-1 pitch from Joel Peralta, putting the Yankees up, 4-2. The homer was the 361st of Teixeira's career, tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th all-time.

"It's a good bounce-back," said Teixeira of the Yankees win. We hadn't played well the first few games of the road trip, so it's really good to bounce back the way we did the last two games."

Monday will be an off-day for the Rays before they host the Tigers in a three-game series.

"Little hiccup here with the Yankees," Maddon said. "Take the day off. I think this day off is pretty much well timed right now. We kind of need it. A day and a half off and then we'll be able to come back Tuesday."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.