Series Recap - NYY @ TB (8/7 - 8/9): Yankees hit rough patch, drop three out of four in Tampa

The 2020 New York Yankees have officially hit their first rough patch of the season. The Yankees lost three out of four games to the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend to cut their American League East lead to just two games. The problem this weekend was largely on offense, as the Yanks only scored seven runs in their three losses (2.3 runs per game). New York has now lost five of its last seven games, and seven of eight at Tropicana Field dating back to last season.

Photo Credit: Chris O'Meara/AP Photo

In the series opener on Friday night, the Yankees’ bats fell silent. In one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory, New York managed just two hits and failed to score a run against six different Rays pitchers. The Yanks only real scoring chances came in the seventh and eighth innings when the team went a combined 0-4 with runners in scoring position. One of the defining moments of the game occurred in the eighth when Mike Tauchman led off the frame with a double, but made a base-running mistake and was tagged out at third one batter later. However, there was a major positive on the mound for the Yankees, as Masahiro Tanaka fired five shutout innings in his second start of the season. The righty was dominant throughout and retired the last 13 Tampa hitters he faced before giving way to the bullpen. After two scoreless innings of relief from Luis Cessa, Adam Ottavino entered in the bottom of inning number eight with the score still 0-0. Ottavino struggled with command, walking two of the first three batters he faced. After a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position with one out, Michael Perez hit a sacrifice fly to center to give the Rays a 1-0 lead and the game one victory.

On Saturday, the Yanks played their second seven-inning doubleheader in four days. In game one, the Yankees jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning on a two-run home run by Mike Ford and two-out, two-run double by Gio Urshela. The Yankee third baseman continues to rake this season, batting .313 with a .976 OPS after Sunday’s game. Another run was tacked onto lead in the fifth courtesy of a towering Giancarlo Stanton home run, making it 5-0. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole was dominant on the mound early on. The righty struck out 10 on the day and fired four shutout innings, before faltering in the fifth. In that frame, he allowed three runs on three hits, leading to his departure one out before he would have become eligible to win his 20th straight decision. In the very next half inning, Aaron Judge got two of the runs back for the Bombers on his league-leading eighth home run of the season, making it 7-3 New York. From there, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino held onto the lead out of the bullpen, as the Yankees won 8-4.

Game two of the double-dip was much less kind to the visitors. Michael King got the spot start and struggled with control throughout the evening. In the opening frame, he walked three and forced in a run. This is a trend that would continue throughout for Yankee pitching. After Luke Voit tied the score on an RBI single in the fourth, the Yanks gave the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning. Three more walks and a cheap, two-out hit by Austin Meadows gave the Rays a 3-1 lead after four. King walked five in just 3.2 innings of work, while missing the strike zone with 34 of his 70 pitches (48.6%). Tampa added two more runs to their lead in the fifth on another two-out single, which followed a hit batter and yet another walk. Yankees' pitching allowed 10 free passes in six innings. With the score 5-1 in the seventh and final inning, New York’s offense made things interesting. With the Yanks down to their final strike, DJ LeMahieu drove in two runs to cut the lead in half, bringing Aaron Judge to the plate as the tying run. In an eight-pitch battle with Nick Anderson, Judge drove one to the warning track, but it wasn’t enough as Tampa held on for a 5-3 victory. After the game, Giancarlo Stanton was placed on the 10-day Injured List with a left hamstring strain.

In the series finale, James Paxton took the mound for the Yankees looking to right the ship after two bad starts to open the season. Through six innings, he was brilliant. The lanky Southpaw had yet to allow a run, while posting 11 strikeouts. Offensively, the Bombers gave Paxton some support thanks to Tampa’s miscues, scoring one on a hit batter in the first and two on an error in the fifth. Once again, the Yanks struggled with runners in scoring position, going 0-8 and missing out of several chances to extend the lead. With Paxton still cruising, things imploded in the seventh, as the lefty surrendered the three-run advantage via back-to-back home runs. Nonetheless, it was a positive step forward for Paxton after he allowed six runs over his first four innings of the campaign. Jonathan Holder followed Paxton and held down the fort for 1.2 innings, before giving way to Zack Britton in the ninth, with things still tied at three. Britton seemed off the entire inning, ultimately giving up the walk-off single to Michael Perez with two outs. Tampa won the game 4-3 after trailing 3-0 just two innings earlier.

Photo Credit: Steve Nesius/AP Photo

Scores from the Series:
·      Rays 1 vs. Yankees 0 (Friday)
·      Yankees 8 vs. Rays 4 (Saturday Game 1)
·      Rays 5 vs. Yankees 3 (Saturday Game 2)
·      Rays 4 vs. Yankees 3 (Sunday)

Who’s Hot?
·      DJ LeMahieu: 5-16 (.313), 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB
·      Gio Urshela: 3-11 (.273), R, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB

Who’s Not?
·      Aaron Hicks: 2-9 (.222), 2B, 3 BB, 2 K
·      Gary Sanchez: 1-8 (.125), 3 BB, 4 K

What’s Next?
·      The Yankees have an off day on Monday before returning home to face the Atlanta Braves in a shortened, two-game series. Game one is set for 7:05pm on Tuesday.

Recap by: Jake Graziano


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