One pitcher maintained his brilliance as an ace of a staff, and the latter maintained his woes as an adrift rotation piece.
Before the Yankees could even pick up a bat, they were dealt an ominous four-run deficit, as Gray surrendered six runs on seven hits in less than three innings in the Red Sox’s 11-0 drubbing over New York on Saturday night in the Bronx.
Gray managed to load the bases for Rafael Devers in the first inning, and with a 1-2 count on Boston’s 21-year-old third baseman, Gray threw a breaking ball which Devers drilled over the left field wall for an opposite-field grand slam. All of this damage came with two outs.
On the winning end, Sale’s performance was simply superb. In seven innings, the southpaw allowed just one hit while striking out 11, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sale became the first pitcher in baseball history to post that line or better multiple times against the Yankees.
Talk about authority.
Perhaps Sale’s outing rubbed salt in the Yankees’ wound that can’t seem to heal on its own.
Gray’s handful of setbacks have reaffirmed the team’s need to acquire an additional pitcher before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Although the Yankees have never required Gray to perform at the level of a frontline ace, he’s been a No. 4 or No. 5 starter at his best this season, which isn’t what general manager Brian Cashman traded for last summer.
Saturday was Gray’s shortest outing of the season. He lasted just 2.1 innings and threw 68 pitches during the Red Sox’s onslaught, and his season ERA now sits at 5.44. Gray was mercilessly booed — a serenade the right-hander has grown quite accustomed to.
But Gray owned up his to mistakes while speaking at his locker after the game. He realizes how infernal 2018 has been for him and for others.
“When you put us in a hole like that against this team with [Sale] on the mound, it’s going to be an uphill climb the whole way. I put us in too big of a hole to climb out of,” Gray told the YES Network. “I get it. If I was out there, I probably would’ve booed me louder. I understand how important these games are and understand how important every game is, especially here with the Yankees. We expect to win. You go out and perform the way I did, I probably would’ve booed a little louder.”
Gray went even further to explain his consistent inconsistencies.
“It’s been too up and down, that’s for sure. That was embarrassing for me and I think for everybody in here,” he said. “To play like we did yesterday and play like we’ve been playing and then come out tonight and spot them six runs in the first two innings, it’s just dissapointing…
“I feel like we’re the best team in baseball four out of five days and then I come out and do that. It just sucks.”
Gray is well aware of his struggles at Yankee Stadium. He entered Saturday with a 4-5 record and 6.50 ERA in home starts since joining the Yankees last August.
Has the New York pressure mounted? What has caused Gray to melt so quickly in the Bronx?
He doesn’t have an answer, though he wishes he did. Gray has been a puzzle the Yankees can’t solve, as if there are a few missing pieces to the set.
Yet, manager Aaron Boone places his trust in Gray. Instead of taking the glass half-empty approach, Boone sees a glass half-full and nearly half a baseball season left for Gray to turn things around in the midst of a pennant race. Albeit it’s a challenge right now to envision what Gray’s role would be during the postseason.
“I think he has what it takes to pitch here and pitch successfully here, absolutely,” Boone told YES. “I think we’ve seen enough good outings from him where he’s built a little bit of momentum. I know physically he’s in a good place, as far as his stuff. Now we’ve just got to unlock it and I feel like one good outing at home and he can get the ball rolling here as well.
“… We’ve just got to keep working through it with him and trust that the stuff we’re seeing is real good and we’re seeing enough good outings. We’ve just got to keep working him through it to where he gets really locked in that groove. I feel like it’s in there.”
Even if that groove is somewhere deep within Gray, the Yankees shouldn’t disregard their rotation deficiency. They desperately need to find a suitable trade partner, and there’s no longer any time to waste.