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Yankees 4, Rays 1: Can’t solve the lefty

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Four walks, but no big hits.

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

YES network announcers Michael Kay and John Sterling started off this game talking about how well the Rays’ opener strategy has been working, which on the one hand was a welcome change and not what I was expecting, but on the other hand, it practically ensured that the first inning wasn’t going to go well for Hunter Wood.

After striking out Brett Gardner swinging, Wood left a slider over the plate at the bottom of the zone for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s not like Stanton put a great swing on it, but he’s just so strong. His glorified check swing went to the wall for a double.

After that, things got weird.

With Aaron Hicks at the plate, Jesus Sucre tried to throw behind Stanton. Willy Adames, drifting in to the base might have been surprised by the throw, which wasn’t quite to the bag, but he saw it in plenty of time to react. He simply missed the catch, and the ball went into center field. On the next pitch, Hicks hit a bloop which fell between Rays in shallow center, scoring the run.

Wood looked unsettled, giving up a single, a hard hit line drive (that found Matt Duffy’s glove), and a walk. With the rain drizzling down, pitching coach Kyle Snyder had a lengthy chat on the mound. Then Wood escaped the inning only having given up the one run.

Headliner Jalen Beeks entered in the second inning, and immediately looked good, moving the ball around and missing bats. Over the third and the fourth innings, he looked really good, striking out the side in each, and threatening the Rays record of seven consecutive strikeouts, currently held in a three-way tie where one thing is not like the other two.

Jalen Beeks would eventually end his night with eight K’s in total, but the theme of this recap is that, whenever we start to anticipate it, success will elude us.

Beeks lost the seventh batter, Neil Walker, to the walk, and then grooved a first-pitch fastball to Austin Romine, who flipped a fliner just inside the foul pole to right. Most 93.9 mph fly balls don’t become home runs, but occasionally they do. For my money, the best thing someone could do for that ballpark would be to hang a speaker over the short right-field porch. It’s not like the folks sitting in the left-field bleachers would be able to see it, anyway.

But no matter how much I’d rather complain about my least-favorite ballpark, I have to admit that it was a bad pitch. Yankees up, 3-0.

Yankess starter J.A. Happ departed after seven strong innings, having walked four Rays batters, but only having given up a single hit (a bloopish single by C.J. Cron). That performance gave Dellin Betances and the impressive Yankees bullpen a three run lead to hold over the final two innings.

Willy Adames, who you might have heard is breaking out, ambushed his first pitch hit a towering fly to left-center to tighten the Yankees lead to two, but the Rays would get no nearer. Adam Kolarek allowed an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth.

This current Rays lineup is anemic when facing a good veteran lefty like Happ. They’re missing key righties in Tommy Pham (injury), Daniel Robertson (injury), and Wilson Ramos (injury and subsequent trade). The Rays get to face right-handed pitchers for the next two games in new York, but once they travel to Boston, it’ll be three lefties again in Brian Johnson, David Price, and Chris Sale.

The good news is that Pham is beginning a rehab assignment in nearby Hudson Valley, presumably to be near the team, and able to rejoin it in Boston if all goes well.

Cross your fingers.

Some other notes:

  • C.J. Cron struck out to end the first inning, swinging late at a fastball like a foot above the top of the strikezone. It was so ugly that I wondered if there was a hit-and-run on. But there’s no good reason, in an 0-2 count like that, for there to be a hit-and-run. I think it was just a really bad swing. Sorry, Cron.
  • In the top of the fourth, the Rays really did get caught in a hit-and-run, I think. Duffy lead off with a walk, and then took off for second on a 1-0 pitch. Duffy’s jump was bad. The pitch was a high fastball above the zone—not the type of thing Jake Bauers usually swings at. Bauers whiffed, and Duffy was thrown out. It was a shame, because Bauers then walked, and Cron singled, and eventually it all came to nothing. I dislike the hit-and-run, especially with one of the Rays best hitters at the plate at the plate, and with no outs. On the other hand, the lefty-on-lefty matchup is tough, and the hit-and-run helps stay out of the double play. What are your thoughts? #CashConsiderations
  • Yankees announcers think we’re past the point where pitchers take offence at emotional home run celebrations. That should mean something coming from the voices of one of the most traditional teams in the league.
  • Anecdotal observation: Jalen Beeks is good at pitching inside.
  • Along with his eighth-inning homer, Willy Adames worked an impressive plate appearance in the second inning. He got behind 0-2 on a couple taken strikes, and then but then fouled off five pitches before taking a walk on the eleventh pitch. Good eye from the rookie.