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Yankees 8, Rays 4: Snell, bullpen squander early lead

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Blake Snell struggled in his final inning and Rickie Weeks just avoided disaster in a nasty collision.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Back at the scene of his major league debut, Blake Snell fell apart before he could be rewarded with his third career win against the Yankees.

Entering the fifth inning with a 3-0 lead, Snell loaded the bases on single (Chase Headley), walk (Aaron Judge), and fielding error by Tim Beckham on a Kyle Higashioka grounder. The Rays’ lefty got the next two batters out after a eight-pitch at-bat against Pete Kozma and a first-pitch popout by Jacoby Ellsbury.

However, left fielder Aaron Hicks coaxed an eight-pitch walk, bringing home New York’s first run and ending Snell’s outing after just 4.2 innings complete.

“I thought he came in and was driving a lot of pitches in the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said post game of Snell, who allowed two hits, two unearned runs, and three walks. “He did have a pretty good mix [of pitches].

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

“[He] was really efficient, he threw the ball really well. It was unfortunate that [fifth] inning unfolded the way it did.”

Snell agreed with his skipper that he “yanked” his final pitch, a 3-2 slider to Hicks and that his workload in the fifth inning tired him out.

“I looked back on it and I threw about 30-something pitches that inning so I understood why I came out [of the game],” Snell said. “I’m learning from it and I’m happy with how I competed today.”

Jumbo Diaz (0-1, 3.60 ERA) relieved Snell and quickly squandered Tampa Bay’s lead via a wild pitch, which cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fifth. The Rays’ rotund righty started the sixth and back-to-back-to-back singles by Starlin Castro, Chase Headley, and Judge tied the game at 3-3. A fielder choice – which put runners on the corners with one out – ended Diaz’s afternoon and made way for Xavier Cedeno.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Cedeno faced two batters and did not record an out as he committed a throwing error and permitted a single to Ellsbury as the Yankees took a 4-3 lead. The throwing error to first base resulted in a violent collision between first baseman Rickie Weeks and Brett Gardner, who pinch-hit for Pete Kozma.

Both players left the game; Weeks confirmed he was day-to-day with a bone bruise in his shoulder and would likely not need a trip to the disabled list. Cash told reporters Weeks avoided serious injury but was clear with reporters that Weeks’s inexperience at the position (just three career starts a first) was not a factor.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

“No, I don’t think so,” Cash said on whether or not a more experienced first baseman would have avoided the impact. “The collision happened because of the throw, Rickie is doing everything he can to catch it and stay on the bag. It doesn’t matter who’s playing over there, you probably have a collision there."

Weeks had hit his first home run of 2017 in the first inning, a two-run shot off Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery, who was making his MLB debut. A Castro fielding error brought home the Rays’ third run in the fifth and a garbage time RBI double by Chris Dickerson in the eighth was the extent of the team’s scoring.

The bullpen meltdown continued with swingman Erasmo Ramirez. A Hicks fielder’s choice brought home New York’s sixth run of the game; Judge added an exclamation point in the seventh with a towering blast to dead center field, his seventh HR in 35 career games and third straight contest with a homer.

“We put ourselves in a bad situation there,” third baseman Evan Longoria said. “Not throwing enough strikes when we need to and giving guys free bases defensively. Overall, it’s just not good. We have to figure out a way to not let that be what defines us over the course of the year.”

With their first back-to-back losses of the year under their belt, the Rays will look to salvage the series finale tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium. Yankees flamethrower Luis Severino (0-0, 7.20 ERA) will oppose Rays’ righty Matt Andriese (0-0, 9.00 ERA).

Additional notes

  • The Rays medical staff visited Cedeno on the mound in the sixth inning after he threw two straight high pitches. Cash said that Cedeno reassured the team he is not injured.
  • Jumbo Diaz barely avoided disaster on Judge's sixth inning line drive single as the ball was inches away from striking his head. He said that his wife called him after the game to make sure he is okay.