Baseball’s best hitters have hit this season, and thousands of runs have been scored, but this has undeniably been the Year of the Pitcher. Monday night’s series opener between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays exemplified the game’s dominance from the mound, as Cy Young award contenders CC Sabathia and David Price were unflappable in a terrific battle between American League East foes.

Both offenses were baffled: innings went by quickly, double-plays or weak flyballs were induced once a threat began to brew, and strikeouts were compiled. Sabathia pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out nine.

Price matched him out for out, tossing eight strong as well, relinquishing only three hits and two walks while striking out four. Their jobs done, they left the scoreless battle for the bullpens to deal with.

Rays closer Rafael Soriano breezed through his half of the ninth while Kerry Wood showed he still has plenty left in the tank, overwhelming the heart of Tampa Bay’s order. Threats put together by both teams went by the wayside in tenth, with an overzealous Brett Gardner caught trying to steal third in the top and Brad Hawpe whiffing with runners on the corners in the bottom.

What happened in the first 10 innings is what makes baseball great. Sure high scoring games are great to watch, but I’d take a pitcher’s duel over pitchers serving batting practice. There’s so much more involved. When it’s 11-10, offenses clearly aren’t fooled by the opponent’s repertoire. But a 0-0 score entering the eleventh? Pitchers have to consistently hit their spots, and when they do the best hitters in the world look silly.

On cue, the Yankees went by quietly in the top of the eleventh as crazy Grant Balfour worked around a leadoff single by Austin Kearns by disposing of light-hitting Colin Curtis then the surprisingly horrible Derek Jeter.

Before I discuss what transpired in the bottom of the frame, a quick tangent regarding the play of Jeter. He’s had a Hall of Fame career as one of the best Yankees of all time. He’s their all time hit leader, and is currently 100 away from the ultimate milestone of 3,000. He’s a five-time World Series champion.

But as good as he has been, he’s hit a wall. At 36, he’s lost the ability to hit major league pitching. His flyout to end the top of the eleventh lowered his batting average to .261, 53 points below his career mark. It’s his contract year, But though his down season shouldn’t hurt his impending free agency much, as there is little doubt he’ll be a Yankee next year, his decline in production is hard to imagine.

Now to what ended the battle. Reid Brignac, their 24-year-old second baseman, stepped to the plate, worked the count, and socked the sixth pitch from Sergio Mitre—a changeup that did nothing—high and deep to right field. After contact, the left-handed 2004 second round pick dropped his bat, watched the ball’s flight, and admired his majestic blast.

The cheers were not as loud as they should have been as Brignac rounded the bases, leaped onto a home-plate surrounded by jubilant teammates, and gave a ecstatic interview spoken in his thick southern drawl. The Rays drew more fans than they usually do, but far too many seats were left unfilled, even though Tropicana Field is one of the most depressing stadium in baseball.

Still, despite the lack of fan support, the Rays are now in first in the toughest division in baseball behind Price’s superb performance and Brignac’s heroics.

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