NEW YORK – Matt Joyce hit a three-run homer off fill-in closer David Robertson in the ninth inning, falling down on a twisted ankle as he finished his swing, and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to beat the New York Yankees 4-1 on Wednesday night.
In his first chance since taking over for injured star Mariano Rivera, Robertson escaped a bases-loaded jam to save Tuesday night's 5-3 victory over the Rays. But one night later, New York got a chilling dose of real-life reality without Rivera.
With the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead, Sean Rodriguez singled through the left side on Robertson's first pitch and went to third when pinch-hitter Brandon Allen singled to right on the next delivery.
Nick Swisher's throw to third was over the head of the cutoff man and Allen raced to second, sliding in safely on a close play that brought a brief argument from Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Ben Zobrist walked and Carlos Pena, called out on strikes with the bases full to end Tuesday night's game, went down looking again. B.J. Upton, however, lifted a sacrifice fly to right and Rodriguez scored with a nifty slide to tie it.
That was the first run charged to Robertson (0-1) in 27 outings since Aug. 29 last year in Baltimore.
Joyce, who struck out earlier with the bases loaded, drove a 1-2 pitch into the first row of seats beyond the short porch in right, giving Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead. And it appeared it was a painful swing.
Joyce rolled his ankle and went down in the batter's box, then got up and trotted gingerly around the bases.
Fernando Rodney (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.
Robertson was an All-Star setup man before Rivera tore a knee ligament shagging fly balls in batting practice last Thursday in Kansas City. Now, he has a pressure-packed role in trying to replace baseball's career saves leader and the greatest closer the game has ever known.
"Let's give the kid a chance," Girardi said.
The Yankees are just beginning to get used to not having No. 42 ready in the bullpen for the ninth inning. But even Rivera isn't perfect. Remember, he blew three of his first six save chances when he replaced John Wetteland as the closer in 1997.
Robinson Cano hit an RBI double in the first inning and Rafael Soriano escaped an eighth-inning jam against his former team, but the Yankees couldn't hang on.
Earlier in the day, Rivera announced he's receiving treatment for a blood clot in his right calf. The 42-year-old reliever, expected to miss the rest of the season, said he is still determined to return next year.
He also said he was sweating and screaming at the television while watching Robertson labor to close out Tuesday night's victory. This one must have been even tougher to take.
Yankees nemesis Jeff Niemann allowed six hits in a season-high seven innings and Tampa Bay snapped a three-game skid. The right-hander is 3-0 in six career starts against New York.
Yankees rookie David Phelps, making his second career start, held Tampa Bay to three hits but was pulled one out short of qualifying for his first major league win. Phelps walked consecutive batters to load the bases in the fifth and was relieved by left-hander Boone Logan, who struck out Joyce on four pitches to end the inning.
Phelps is probably headed back to long relief when Andy Pettitte returns to the rotation Sunday against Seattle, ending his one-year retirement.
NOTES: Rays LHP David Price (5-1, 2.35 ERA) faces LHP CC Sabathia (4-0, 4.15) in a matchup of All-Star aces Thursday night. Price is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five career starts against Sabathia, and Tampa Bay has won them all. ... Yankees reserve 3B-1B Eric Chavez is eligible to come off the 7-day disabled list for concussions on Thursday, but he hadn't been cleared to play yet by Major League Baseball because he didn't do well on one of the cognitive tests. Chavez said he felt 100 percent Wednesday for the first time since the injury. ... Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira has been playing through a terrible cough due to severely inflamed airways. He saw a chest specialist and received medication that he hopes will clear up the problem within a week. "I'm healthy, other than I can't breathe," said Teixeira, who called the diagnosis a huge relief. "It's just annoying more than anything. ... It sounds like I'm going to choke to death." ... Rays INF Jeff Keppinger, placed on the restricted list after Tuesday night's game due to a family matter, is expected back Thursday or Friday. ... Tampa Bay LF Desmond Jennings (sprained left knee) is close to returning to the starting lineup, manager Joe Maddon said. Jennings flied out as a pinch hitter to end the eighth.