With their “tragic number” at one, no doubt the Rays and their fans were no longer entertaining playoff hopes. Nonetheless I was really pulling for the Rays to come out on top tonight for several reasons:
- To keep playoff (pipe) dreams alive even if just for a few hours
- To help knock the Yankees out of the first wild card spot,
- To make sure the bandwagon local Yankees fans (who claim to be diehards but who really, much like mushrooms emerging after a good rain, pop up only in years when the Yankees are playoff bound) have a terrible time and hopefully binge eat their frustrations on expensive concessions before driving home to Sun City. Those $12 nacho plates, after all, will finance the Blake Snell extension.
So this was a disappointing loss.
Diego Castillo was the Rays opener, and he was, as has been true often, very effective. For example, he fell behind lead-off batter Andrew McCutchen, but came back to strike him out looking at something soft-ish down the middle. Throw 101 like Castillo does and you can maybe catch a guy napping with something in the low nineties.
Next two batters made weak contact and Diego had an easy first.
For their part, the Yankees started Jonathan Holder, a 25 year old reliever who has had a break out season out of the bullpen. He would be the first of the Yankees eight pitchers in what would be a full-on bullpen day. Apparently a $197 million payroll is not sufficient to give you five reasonable starters so you need to improvise.
Holder got into some trouble, walking Matt Duffy and Ji-Man Choi with one out. He then struck out Tommy Pham looking on a borderline (i.e. actually inside) fastball for the second out. Wendle hit the ball hard but right at Aaron Judge to end the threat.
Castillo was equally dominant in the second inning, but he left in favor of Hunter Wood for the third inning. Wood threw one right in McCutchen’s wheelhouse and the solo shot gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The Rays tied it up in the bottom of the fourth. They got their first hit on a long Tommy Pham double; he got to third on a passed ball. Joey Wendle grounded out to the first baseman, and Voit moved to throw home, but Pham had not run. By the time Voit realized there was no play to make it was too late to catch Wendle at first.
Brandon Lowe hit a funky ground ball that turned into a double play, but at least that scored the run. 1-1
The tie was short-lived, however. “Bulk guy” Ryan Yarbrough had come into the game and he had a top of the fifth inning that was both shaky and unlucky. He recorded the first two outs on pretty well hit fly balls. But then he walked Aaron Judge, who moved to second on a passed ball.
Then Brett Gardner, who had been brought in to replace Hicks, who was removed with a leg injury, blooped a pitch into no man’s land and the Yankees took the lead. Next up was Giancarlo Stanton, who doubled, scoring Gardner from first. Stanton was thrown out trying to stretch his hit to a triple, but the damage was done as the Yankees took a 3-1 lead. There is so much to make a Rays fan grit her teeth that inning. The two out walk. The passed ball. And that pathetic Gardner blooper. Is there a currently active player who has been more annoying to the Rays than Gardner?
Yarbrough, who was neither great nor terrible today, allowed a fourth run in the seventh on doubles by McCutchen and Judge.
It was not Yarbrough’s fault, however, that his teammates were unable to manage more than a dim flicker of offense.
Through six innings, the Rays offense had been both meager and unlucky. They had managed just two hits, although the five walks they drew, accompanied by two passed balls and a throwing error that allowed a runner to advance to second, provided several scoring opportunities. But they had struck out 8 times, were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, and anything hit hard (other than Pham’s double) went for an out, including a Brandon Lowe deep fly ball that Gardner tracked down for an out in front of the center field wall.
And that was before the Yankees brought in their A-list bullpen, with Chapman, Betances and Britton slamming the door shut.
Some final thoughts:
- The Rays announced that Jacob Faria will start tomorrow’s game. I assume they waited to see if they were eliminated before finalizing their pitching plans. Let’s hope Jake can have an effective outing and end the season on a high note.
- No doubt Tommy Pham will not always be playing at a 6 WAR pace. but boy is he a welcome addition. He hustles, he plays defense, and he murders baseballs.
- I find myself wishing that the Rays would have some very annoying sound effect they could play with every Yankee strikeout. I’m thinking either vuvuzela or the sound Victoria Azarenka makes when she hits a tennis ball.
- Jerry Layne, home plate umpire, has a terrible strikeout call. It comes seemingly minutes after the pitch is received leaving you wondering what the heck is happening. And it’s a very indecisive hand motion that looks like something between shooing away a fly and a Queen Elizabeth royal wave.
- Taking my own advice I had a Pinot Noir ready to go.
Bigger picture, we can all appreciate how unexpected it has been to watch the Rays play meaningful games in September. Few would have anticipated that this team would be eliminated as late as September 24.