The Tampa Bay Rays welcomed the New York Yankees to Tropicana Field for a three game series Friday night on the heels of a four game winning streak. The red-hot Rays offense would face off against Gerrit Cole, while the struggling Yankees would have to deal with Zach Eflin, the winningest pitcher in the American League, coming into the game.
Cole was as advertised, tossing 7.2 strong innings, surrendering just two earned runs while striking out eleven. He didn't allow any free passes, and the Rays didn't have an at-bat with a runner in scoring position until the eighth inning following a Jose Siri steal.
The Rays were unable to muster any sort of momentum in the first half of the game. Through the first five innings of the game, they only had two hits.
Trailing by two in the sixth, Yandy Diaz hit a solo shot to left center field to cut the Yankees lead in half. Perhaps, the Rays had some late inning magic left in them following an exciting series sweep of the Rockies.
The Devil Rays haven't been shut out in 2023, and Yandy made sure it stayed that way. pic.twitter.com/mLel6kuXXZ— Tampa Bay Devil Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 26, 2023
But, as Zach Eflin gave way to Trevor Kelley, the Rays deficit quickly ballooned to 5-1, and then 6-1 the following inning as Kelley failed to the keep the scuffing Yankees offense from scoring.
Kelley, who was recently recalled, went two innings and allowed four runs on two walks and four hits.
Prior to Kelley’s struggles, Eflin turned in another solid performance. The Rays most dependable starter this season, Eflin tossed six innings of two-run baseball, while striking out eleven.
The two runs he did surrender were the result of a solo shot by LeMahieu in the fifth, and an RBI-single in the 6th. LeMahieu finished the day with two bombs.
The Rays threatened in the eighth inning, scoring their second run of the game on a Brandon Lowe single, but Randy Arozarena left a pair of runners stranded on base to end the inning.
The Rays went quietly in the ninth, dropping the series opener to the last place Yankees. Cole took the win, while Eflin took the loss. The Rays record moved to 78-52 and they dropped to three games back of the Orioles after a late inning comeback by the O’s over the Rockies.