This was very much a winnable game. Just annoying that the stars didn’t align and Yankees missed out late in the game. There are a lot of “what ifs” in the game of baseball and, boy, there were too many of those in this game. Yankees are now 24-15, and in a bit of a 4-6 funk the last 10 games.
Take a 2-1 lead
The Yankees and Rays traded runs in the first. With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Matt Holliday doubled to put the runners in scoring position pretty quick into the game. starlin Castro followed it up with an RBI ground out to give New York a 1-0 lead. Aaron Judge singled to keep the pressure on Erasmo Ramirez, but Didi Gregorius struck out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Luis Severino labored through the first. He faced six hitters and allowed a run on Logan Morrison RBI double. Not only was the strike zone was a little stingy, but also Severino himself was a bit off. Had that continued all night, it would have been a different game overall, but Severino found his groove starting in the second inning — he pitched four scoreless rest of the outing while striking out seven.
Acting manager Rob Thomson pulled Severino out after the fifth inning at 89 pitches … which was a curious decision. Severino went over 100 pitches five times this season prior to tonight. I feel like he could have at least gotten an out or two in the sixth. Anyways, I liked what I saw from him. It was a typical good Sevvy night — 11 whiffs from his slider (23.9% rate) and topping out at 99.9 mph per Brooks Baseball.
After Severino finished, Jonathan Holder came into relief in the sixth. He struck out the first two hitters on six pitches, allowed a double to Daniel Robertson, but induced a ground out from Derek Norris to get out of the inning. An underrated part of 2017 so far has been Jonathan Holder quietly becoming a bullpen fixture. You can never have enough of good bullpen arms. However, that was the only bright spot for the ‘pen tonight.
Adam Warren came into the seventh and all hell broke loose. Here are the sequence of events that turned a 2-1 Yankees lead into a 4-2 Rays advantage:
Few notes here: the first three singles were a bit annoying because they were all grounders that could’ve been caught if the infielders were positioned a little differently. But that’s the way the baseball goes. The most annoying moment of the inning, though, by far, was the Chasen Shreve vs. Rickie Weeks matchup. Shreve nicked the inside corner of the strike zone on a 2-2 count and the HP umpire Quinn Wolcott did not ring Weeks up. That was a borderline pitch that could’ve gone either way, and we are talking a whole different game if the inning ended here. On the next pitch, Weeks hit a tricky-hop grounder that Ronald Torreyes couldn’t handle and resulted in a double. One of those games. Would Chase Headley have handled it? I don’t know.
But fear not, the Yankees have the Fighting Spirit. Brett Gardner reached the base with a walk and Matt Holliday hit a 2-run homer to tie the game up 4-4 in the eighth. The Yankees tried to keep the rally going with a Castro single right after. However, Judge grounded into a double play to end the inning.
…. and they gave the lead right back. Tyler Clippard came into the bottom of the eighth to try to keep the game tied. He got Robertson strike out swinging, walked Norris, struck out Corey Dickerson, and walked Kevin Kiermaier to set up the inevitable Evan Longoria-the-hero moment for the Rays. If you’re familiar with how the Yankees fared against the Rays for the last several years, this was a deja-vu moment – Longoria hit a changeup into the left field for an RBI single and Tampa Bay took a 5-4 lead. I would’ve preferred Thomson bringing in Dellin Betances to face Longoria but Clippard is a pretty good pitcher himself. Hindsight is 20/20 but I was not complaining much about Thomson giving Clippard a chance to close the inning out.
Top of the ninth, with one of the best closers of the league pitching, Thomson let Chris Carter and Austin Romine try their luck and sat Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks sit on the bench. Brutal. The inning went as well as I had guessed and the Rays won 5-4.
Not often you see the Yankees lose when the top four hitters in the lineup reach on base twice or more each. Gardner, Ellsbury, Holliday, and Castro went 7-for-14 with 2 walks combined. The bottom part of the lineup went silent though. Gregorius, Carter, Romine, and Torreyes went 0-for-14 combined and that wasn’t enough for the Yankees tonight, at all.
Box score, standings and WPA Graph
The Yankees are back at it again at the Trop tomorrow. Masahiro Tanaka will face Matt Andriese. Is this the start that Tanaka finally turns it around? We’ll see.