The Rays have had pretty good success against Gerrit Cole — that is outside of his shutdown 2019 ALDS performance. But tonight he was on his game, aided by a generous strikezone to be sure but he was indeed sharp and kept the Rays from getting much going. I don’t tend to be a pessimistic sort of fan but this game felt like one where the bounces — and calls — would go against the Rays.
The Rays got the no-hitter monkey off their backs in the first inning with a Harold Ramirez single. And in the bottom of the inning, prevented the Yankees from getting their first hit with an unbelievable 6-3 ground-out that involved Taylor Walls at short moving seemingly a few miles to his left to grab a ball destined for the outfield, and Ji-Man Choi grabbing his throw with a classic split.
The Yankees had the first man in scoring position in the second, when Kiner-Felefa’s opposite side grounder bounded past Diaz and into the leftfield corner, but the next batter flew out into the Rays four-man outfield.
The teams exchanged zeros until the bottom of the fourth inning. The last thing you want to do with this strong Yankee lineup is giving them a helping hand. But Kluber walked Stanton, and then Manuel Margot repeated Kevin Kiermaier’s “senior moment” of last series, getting under a fly ball and seeming to have an easy catch, but failing to squeeze the ball into the glove. The error put two runners on with one out. Kluber got one strikeout, and got ahead of Kiner-Falefa, but a weak contact single scored a run, And Arozarena’s terrible throw home, which Kluber failed to back up, allowed a second run to score.
On the offensive side, Rays squandered their limited opportunities. With runners at first and second and none out in top of the fifth they were able to get no one home. Francisco Mejia, who seemingly swings at every pitch, decided not to swing on a pitch down the middle and was called out on strikes.
Next inning the Rays seemed to have another minor threat as Yandy Diaz, on first base after a single, got to second when Cole threw errantly to second on a come backer. It seemed pretty clear that the Yankees second baseman was pulled well off the base to receive the throw, but the Yankees appealed the safe call and shockingly the call was overturned. I’m not one to engage in conspiracy theories, and I assume the umps mostly get it right, but in this case: What. The. Hell.
That wasn’t the end of the inning however. The Rays managed another bloop it and an infield single to load the bases. But I could see the double play ball even before Arozarena hit it, because some games are like that. Middle of the 6th it was still a 2-0 Yankee lead, and that’s where it stayed.
Both starters pitched six strong innings; Kluber gave up 4 hits and walked just one (the two runs were unearned) and did a great job keeping the big bats off balance. And although a few boneheaded errors led to the two Yankee runs, the Rays also had some great defensive plays that limited damage, including one where Diaz seemed to have to fight off the third base umpire to snare a grounder. Bullpen did its job, with scoreless innings from Bard and Faucher, the latter having to work out of a second and third, one out jam.
But it’s hard to piece together runs on half a dozen weak singles, and it’s hard to win if you don’t score.
I miss Brandon Lowe.