ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On paper, it was about what one expected. The New York Yankees dropped two of three games to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Aside from the end of the finale, the defense was atrocious, hitting with RISP was anemic, and the starting pitching was brutal. Only the bullpen proved to be the most consistent, as it has been all along in the early going.
The Rays were full of exuberance after raising their 2020 AL Pennant banner. It showed because the Yankees looked flat in their 10-5 loss. Corey Kluber was not competitive with a mere 2.1 frames of work. The defense behind him was all out of sorts. A four-run rally capped off by an Aaron Hicks two-run home in the third inning should’ve been good enough on most days but the Yankees couldn’t make it hold up.
Throwing up a donut was vital for Kluber in the bottom of the third inning. Yet, it didn’t take the Rays long to pounce and ultimately finish him off. Yoshi Tsutsugo singled to right. Austin Meadows followed by coaxing a walk. Ensuing batter Randy Arozarena singled to right, plating Tsutsugo and setting up runners at the corners. After Arozarena stole second, Kluber struck out Brandon Lowe but then walked Yandy Diaz and his afternoon was done.
Reliever Nick Nelson fared no better and allowed a two-run double to left by Joey Wendle. The Rays went ahead 5-4 and never looked back.
There was plenty of slopiness to go around in another flat loss, 4-0. Domingo German didn’t get any help but he didn’t help himself either and was jettisoned to the Alternate Site following this contest.
Sure, a Meadows first frame home run all but cemented this one. However, it got uglier during the second stanza. With runners in scoring position and one out, German botched what was ruled a ground ball single by Francisco Mejia. Had German fielded it cleanly, he could’ve cut down the runner Wendle at the plate, or at a minimum, the ball would’ve gone to DJ LeMahieu, who likely records at least the out at first base.
This 8-4 victory had certainly had its share of twists and turns and headscratchers. However, the Yankees were ultimately able to flip the script, going at least 4-for-15 with RISP, whereas the Rays went 0-for-7 with RISP. Jordan Montgomery and the New York bullpen proceeded to register 13 strikeouts combined. Gio Urshela, who was smooth at the hot corner per usual, nearly hit for the cycle with a four-hit effort.
Facing Collin McHugh with the automatic runner, Aaron Judge, on in the tenth inning, Hicks reached on a hit-by-pitch on an otherwise rough day for him at the plate and in the field. Rather than pinch-hit Clint Frazier, who was benched for the second consecutive game for whatever reason, Aaron Boone allowed Mike Tauchman to bat and Tauchman laid down a tailor-made sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Gleyber Torres, who had a clutch game-tying knock in the eighth, grounded into a fielder’s choice as Judge was cut down at the plate on the contact play. Then, stinking in his debut with an 0-for-4 to that point, Rougned Odor came up smelling fresh as daisies with a bloop RBI single to center.