Opening the weekend series in The Bronx, the Rays looked to start the series on the right foot against the second place Yankees. With a 0.5 game lead in the division, the 26-15 Rays turned to opener Ryne Stanek to start this game against CC Sabathia and the Yankees.
Ryne Stanek threw two innings to open the game and after a hitless first inning where Stanek struck out one, Kendrys Morales put the Yankees on the scoreboard early with a loud home run to right field in the second. This would be the only run that Stanek would allow, but it gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
Stanek struck out two batters in the second inning to total three strikeouts after 26 pitches thrown, with 14 of those pitches being strikes. Yonny Chirinos was summoned upon to throw the bulk of the innings in the third inning, and from the first pitch in his outing, Chirinos handled the Yankees lineup well.
Travis d’Arnaud recorded his first hit as a Ray in the second inning, sending a ball perfectly in-between the gloves of infielders Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu.
In the top of the fourth inning, on the very first pitch thrown by Sabathia, Willy Adames returned a sinker into the left field bleachers to tie the game up for the Rays, 1-1. With an exit velocity of 94 mph and a launch angle of 30 degrees, that ball had an expected batting average of only .200, but it was hit just hard enough to put the Rays on the board.
With a runner on second in the bottom of the sixth inning, Avisail Garcia came up with a huge catch to end the inning, preventing the go-ahead run to score for the Yankees.
Chirinos would be on cruise control throughout his outing, not allowing any runs before turning it over to the Rays bullpen with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Adam Kolarek was called upon to pitch against Brett Gardner, and Kolarek quickly got the out to end the inning.
Chirinos worked four and two thirds innings and did a very respectable job after throwing 68 pitches, not allowing any runs while striking out two. 45 of those pitches were strikes, and Chirinos did not walk anybody while getting the job done in neutralizing the Yankees lineup. Kolarek pitched to only one batter before handing the ball over to Diego Castillo to pitch the eighth inning.
Before Castillo took the ball in the bottom half of the inning, the Rays offense left their mark on the game in the top half of the eighth. Daniel Robertson doubled to right field with one out in the inning, and Brandon Lowe drove Robertson home to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
With Lowe on second base, Kevin Kiermaier legged out an infield single and forced an errant throw by Gleyber Torres, throwing the ball out of play and scoring Lowe to extend the Rays’ lead to 3-1.
Diego Castillo would take the mound in the bottom of the eighth, and in the midst of a heavy downpour, threw only two pitches before the game entered a rain delay. Keep in mind that unlike Tropicana Field, Yankee Stadium does not have a roof, and therefor a rain delay like this is possible, unfortunately. If only the Yankees played in a dome.
After an approximately 35 minute rain delay, play resumed and Diego Castillo made quick work of the Yankees lineup to end the eighth. Jose Alvarado was summoned upon to close this game out, and Alvarado did just that. Or at least, that’s what I had typed when the game was still 3-1.
Luke Voit homered to bring the Yankees within one, and a couple of base hits and a wild pitch by Alvarado evened the game up at three. Gio Urshela walked it off with a hit into deep center field to close this one out for the Yankees. Alvarado did not look good from the very first pitch of his outing, and his final pitch was the dagger on the Rays’ division lead.
In a game that seemed like a win through eight innings, the Rays dropped a big division game in a way that really stings. The middle game of the series takes place tomorrow at 1 pm with Blake Snell on the mound for the Rays, facing Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees.