The Tampa Bay Rays losing streak hit a fevered pitch on Saturday, after the New York Yankees took the second game of the series in their final at-bat and winning by a score of 3-2. Tampa Bay has now lost a season high seven straight, and 11 of its past 13. The team starts the day three back of the Yankees in the AL East.
The Yankees took the lead in the first inning against Nathan Karns, taking advantage of the Rays righty before he settled in. Brett Gardner led off with a first pitch single up the middle and Chase Headley hit a grounder into right, moving Gardner into scoring position. Alex Rodriguez followed with an RBI bloop single into right, plating a run and moving Headly to third. Mark Teixeira sacrificed for the second run, capping the rally. Of the 37 runs Karns has allowed, 13 have come in the first inning.
Yet Karns was very tough on the Yankees from there, tossing six scoreless innings to finish his outing, and fanning a career high 10. The Rays righty scattered five hits and two walks; retiring the final seven batters he faced, and holding New York to 1-6 wRISP over the course of his seven inning start.
Unfortunately, the Rays couldn’t pounce on their limited opportunities against Michael Pineda, who also struck out 10 and walked just one.
The Rays went 0-6 wRISP against Pineda — 0-9 overall — and had their best scoring opportunity in the second. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning by lacing a double to left, then Kevin Kiermaier followed with by working a six pitch walk. But Jake Elmore popped up a bunt attempt, Curt Casali struck out, and Grady Sizemore bounced to third to end the inning and the threat.
Pineda, much like his opponent, settled in and retired 18 of 19. It was the Tampa Bay’s third consecutive game where they didn’t score with Karns was on the mound.
Curt Casali hit a 2-1 double to start the eighth and chase Pineda, yet Justin Wilson struck out Brandon Guyer and Joey Butler, and Dellin Betances coaxed a grounder to third out of Evan Longoria to end the inning.
Meanwhile Kavin Cash called upon Brandon Gomes to work the eighth, and he responded by posting a perfect frame — setting the table for an improbable ninth.
James Loney got the inning started with an opposite field single, and then Steven Souza Jr, who was 0-26 with 16 strikeouts entering the game, crushed a 2-2 homer to left on a hanging breaking pitch. It was the first homer Betances allowed in 2015, and the team leading 15th home run for Souza. Betances retired the next three batters to keep the game tied, giving the appearance the contest would go into extras for the second straight day.
However, the game never made it into extra innings.
Mark Teixeira doubled past the shift into the right field corner against Brad Boxberger to start the Yankees half of the ninth. Joe Girardi called upon Jose Pirela to pinch run for Teixeira, and pinch-hitter Chris Young walked after falling behind 0-2 to Boxberger. With a pair on, Ramon Flores pushed a bunt up the third-base side of the infield. Evan Longoria called for it, yet Boxberger, who already picked the ball up, looked to second, then made an off-balance throw to first. Jake Elmore, who was covering first, tried to scoop it, but the ball glanced off his glove. Elmore corralled it before the ball could bound away and threw home, but it was too late — Jose Pirela slid across the plate, scoring the winning run.
It’s frustrating that the outcome of the game is based on one throw that should be pretty simple, Boxberger said of his part of the botched play. Just in that situation, I didn’t set my feet, just rushed it a little bit. And that’s what happens.
Elmore also chimed in,
I set up on the bag, saw it in the dirt and tried to read the pick. It was like a snow cone, and then when you try to pick through it with force, sometimes it catapults the ball a little bit. … I know he’s going, so as soon as it pops up I know I’ve got to catch and throw, so I spun and threw and (catcher Curt Casali) caught it, but (Pirela) slid in behind him.
The Rays skipper succinctly summed up yesterday’s game, and the frustrating stretch the team has been on,
Well, if there was any question that we were in a bad funk coming into the game, we solidified that with today’s game.
The New What Next
The Rays won’t take on the Yankees again until early September. With that in mind, Sunday’s series finale provides the last opportunity for the Rays to force a two-game swing in a close American League East race. Erasmo Ramirez (6-3, 4.01 ERA) will take the mound for Tampa Bay, opposite of Ivan Nova (1-1, 1.50 ERA since returning from Tommy John surgery). The Yankees are going for the sweep, while the Rays look to snap a seven-game skid. Initially scheduled to take the hill for New York in the finale, the Yankees decided to push CC Sabathia’s start back to Wednesday. You can read more about Ramirez in our Rays/Yankees series preview.
Rays 7/5/15 Sarting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
— Grady Sizemore is not in the lineup today because Evan Longoria is hitting DH, and the Rays prefer better outfield coverage.
— RHP Ronald Belisario, designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and elected for free-agency.