Well that was a wasted opportunity. The Yankees failed to complete the sweep Thursday night — they’ve been quite good at this season — and dropped the series finale 2-0 to the Rays. They’re still alive in the postseason race with ten games to go, but it’s going to take a miracle at this point.
You Can’t Win If You Don’t Score
Two weeks ago the Yankees forced Blake Snell to throw 88 pitches in 3.2 innings. Thursday night he used 88 pitches to cruise through five scoreless innings. Well, maybe cruise isn’t the right word. It’s not like the Yankees had zero baserunners. They had men on base in all five innings against Snell, including multiple runners in the first and third innings. And yet, zero runs.
Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with back-to-back singles and were stranded. Sigh. Two strikeouts and a pop-up doomed that inning. Then, in the third, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs on a walk (Gary Sanchez), a single (Billy Butler), and a walk (Mark Teixeira) before Chase Headley flew out to end the inning. They also wasted leadoff singles in the fourth and ninth.
All told, the Yankees went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position against Snell and various relievers. The biggest culprit? Teixeira. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts with men on base. He’s hitting .197/.289/.343 (71 wRC+) and here he is, still batting in the middle of the order in Game 152. It’s not your fault, Mark. You don’t make the lineup. The Yankees were held to eight singles and three walks, and they scored no more than one run for the AL-leading 32nd time.
Six Strong From Cessa
Aside from the #obligatoryhomer problem, Luis Cessa has been rock solid since joining the rotation last month. He held the Rays to two runs in six innings Thursday night, one on a solo homer and the other after Aaron Hicks appeared to lose a fly ball in the roof and let it drop in for a leadoff single. Either way, lost in the roof or not, it was a ball that had to be caught. Two ground ball singles got that run home in the first inning.
Between Brad Miller’s run-scoring single in the first inning and Corey Dickerson’s solo dinger in the sixth, Cessa retired 15 of 19 batters faced and allowed only five balls to be hit out of the infield. Sanchez helped him out by throwing out one runner trying to steal and picking another off second with a snap throw. Cessa struck out six and allowed the two runs on six hits and two walks in his six innings. He has a 3.83 ERA in seven starts now. That’ll work.
Butler, Gregorius, and Hicks each had two hits. Sanchez drew two walks and it looked pretty obvious the Rays finally decided to stop pitching to him. He saw nothing close to the strike zone. For some reason Ronald Torreyes was allowed to face Alex Colome while representing the tying run in the ninth. Not sure I get that one. Maybe pinch-hit someone who can tie the game with one swing? Just a thought.
Luis Severino struck out three and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings. He was the only reliever used. But! Dickerson took Cessa deep with Tommy Layne warming. Second night in a row a right-handed pitcher gave up a home run to a left-handed batter with Layne ready in the bullpen. That’s the good stuff.
Assuming the Red Sox beat the Orioles again, the Yankees will remain two games back in the loss column for the second wildcard spot. The Tigers could jump the O’s and take over the second wildcard spot if they beat the Twins tonight.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the loss probability graph:
The Yankees are headed up to Toronto for their final road series of the 2016 season. Bryan Mitchell and Francisco Liriano are the scheduled starters for Friday’s series opener. That’s a four-game series.