It felt like the New York Yankees had the opportunity to step on the throats of the Tampa Bay Rays. Yes, they maintained their lead in the AL East, yes they lost the games pitched by Blake Snell and Charlie Morton but one could argue after taking the first two games, the Yankees should’ve pushed it to the limit instead of resting players before the All-Star break. On a positive note, the Yankees have the best record in the AL at the All-Star break.
The score didn’t reflect it, the Yankees 8-4 victory against the Rays was a grind. New York would lead throughout most of the game but when the wheels came off in the ninth, they needed to crank up the power in the tenth.
HAPP CLAPS BACK
Aside from a bit of a rough patch in the first frame, J.A. Happ was mostly on point all evening. In that first, Tommy Pham started the Rays off with a one-out single to left. A two-out RBI-double to center by Avisail Garcia provided the Rays a 1-0 lead. Otherwise, Happ basically cruised with five K’s, three hits, three walks and one run on his 5.1 frames of work.
The Yankees were in Tampa, so of course, they let some of the Steinbrenner Field lineup play. During the third, birthday boy Mike Ford set the tone with a single back up the box against Yonny Chirinos. Following a passed ball by Travis d’Arnaud, Mike Tauchman singled home Ford with the equalizer to center. With two down and a wild pitch by Chirinos advancing Tauchman to second, Aaron Hicks planted an RBI-double down the line in right, providing the Yankees with a 2-1 edge.
The parrot heads were out in full force in Florida and they had themselves a nice little walk in the seventh. Edwin Encarnacion rocked the first pitch he saw from Chirinos into the left-field stands and increased the Bronx Bombers advantage to 3-1.
At least he didn’t lose it. That was the one saving grace for Aroldis Chapman and company in the ninth. After walking Nate Lowe, Chapman fanned Willy Adames. Lowe would score on a bang-bang play at home plate after Tauchman took a bad route to what turned into an RBI-double to right by Joey Wendle. After d’Arnaud flew out to right, Chapman uncorked a pair of wild pitches enabling Wendle to score and tie the game. Tampa would load the bases on a pair of consecutive singles by Guillermo Heredia and Yandy Diaz and a walk by Pham but Chapman would whiff Austin Meadows to escape the frame.
Masahiro Tanaka walked a fine line, providing New York with some length but was also hampered by the longball. Nate Lowe tied the game with a solo shot to left-center off Tanaka in the fourth. Tanaka also was taken deep by Mike Zunino in the fifth. Solo shots but not exactly guys destroying the ball this year. On the whole, Tanaka went 6.1 frames, fanning five, yielding four runs on six hits and two walks.
In the fifth, the Yankees took the lead back with singles from Torres, Gardner, Austin Romine and ultimately a two-run single by Tauchman.
BOUT OF WILDNESS
In the seventh, Tanaka encountered a bout of wildness and enabled the Rays to bounce back. A Michael Brosseau double, wild pitch and walk of Zunino, signaled the end of Tanaka’s evening.
Nestor Cortes Jr. was summoned in a more high leverage spot than usual. With the pinch runner Heredia on first, Cortes Jr. plunked Meadows to load the bases. Following a strikeout of Pham, a two-out, two-run single by Kevin Kiermaier to left gave the Rays a 4-3 advantage.
PINCH HICKS TO THE STICKS
Pinch-hitting for Tauchman and facing Pagan in the eighth, Hicks tattooed a solo blast to right for the 4-4 equalizer.
David Hale helped save the Yankee pen gutting out 2.1 scoreless frames before handing the ball off to Chapman for the final two outs of the game.
It was another familiar looking game but without the extra innings. The Yankees staged a comeback but fell short 4-3, going an uncharacteristic 1-for-12 with RISP and Aaron Boone may have pushed CC Sabathia just a tad bit too far.
Revving the Bronx Bomber offense was Gardner in the second stanza. Facing Snell, Gardner smacked a solo shot to right, staking the Yanks to a 1-0 advantage.
The Rays would square the game at one in the home half of the second but the Yankees would reclaim the lead in the seventh. Facing Jose Alvarado with two down, Hicks squared up an RBI-single to right, providing New York with a 2-1 advantage.
On 12 days rest, Sabathia was pretty much in cruise control and fairly economical pitching seven strong. Sabathia yielded three runs on six hits and two walks, fanning five on his ledger. In the seventh, Sabathia whiffed Kiermaier but a loud line out to left by Adames and a base knock to center by d’Arnaud probably should’ve signaled the end, especially with a fresh bullpen. With a 1-2 count, Sabathia would hang a slider to the rookie lefty Lowe, who would deposit it into the right-field stands, giving the Rays their first lead at 3-2.
With LeMahieu and Torres on the bench, the Yankee lineup had issues against Morton. Plus, Judge getting called out on strikes at the ankles didn’t help matters either. James Paxton shook off a shaky first frame and rebounded with a solid outing. Yet, the Yankees would drop the series finale 2-1.
NO DEFENSE FOR THAT
In that first inning, Paxton didn’t exactly receive any help from Breyvic Valera. After surrendering a lead-off double to d’Arnaud, Paxton allowed an RBI-double to Pham, who turned it into a double as Valera for some reason decided to go cover first base and there was no one left to cover the bag at second, allowing Pham to take advantage. A single by Diaz made it runners at the corners. A forceout to third by Garcia enabled Pham to score, making it 2-0 Rays.
A GARDY PARTY DON’T STOP
One player who doesn’t want any rest or the All-Star break to commence is Gardner. For the third consecutive contest, Gardner went yard, taking Morton deep to right in the second inning. Raise your hand if you thought Gardner would lead all Yankee outfielders with 15 home runs at the break. Raise your hand again if you thought he’d have more homers than Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined at the break. OK, now put your hands down, liars.
After the first frame, Paxton was dialed in. On the afternoon the fireballing lefty fanned 11 in six strong innings, scattering seven hits and allowing two runs. Paxton finished strong by stranding a pair and striking out the side in the sixth.