Today has been a long day of baseball. It began with a morning trade between the Yankees and Twins, and rolled along with rumors still linking New York to Sonny Gray. The afternoon stretched on as the Rays and Yankees played a slow, pitching change/mound conference filled game. By the end, the Yankees’ winning streak was snapped at six, as Jordan Montgomery was chased early and the offense failed to capitalize on a number of chances.
Montgomery was coming off one of his best starts of the year against Cincinnati, but he quickly found himself in trouble. He walked Steven Souza and allowed a single to Lucas Duda, and Trevor Plouffe managed a two-out RBI single to make it 1-0.
That lead wouldn’t last long. In the bottom of the second, Chase Headley, in the midst of a very solid stretch that has brought his season wRC+ above 100, worked a walk against Rays starter Jacob Faria. Ronald Torreyes then lined his third homer of the year just over the wall in left for a 2-1 lead.
Yet the Rays kept finding ways to bother Montgomery. Peter Bourjos led off the third with a double, Evan Longoria reached on an infield single, and Lucas Duda walked to load the bases with one out. Montgomery was able to fan Plouffe, but the Rays picked up three more two-out runs after Corey Dickerson and Wilson Ramos each singled to give Tampa a 4-2 advantage and knock Montgomery from the game.
The Rays were patient versus Montgomery. One of the ways the rookie has remained effective this season has been getting hitters to swing at bad pitches; opposing hitters have swung at his offerings at an above average rate despite Montgomery throwing strikes at a low rate. Today, the Rays swung at just 40% of his pitches, content to make Montgomery work.
The result was Montgomery’s shortest start of the year at just 2.2 innings. He gave up four runs on six hits, with five strikeouts compared to two walks. There was definitely some BABIP luck working against him, as all three singles he yielded in his disastrous third inning were hit softly at velocities between 65 mph and 85 mph per Statcast. Still, Montgomery was just a little too hittable, and the Rays were able to get the ball in play and knock him out with some timely hits.
Little Torreyes continued to keep the Yankees in the game though. He followed up his dinger with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, driving in Todd Frazier to slice the deficit to 4-3.
Luis Cessa relieved Montgomery and had one of his finer showings. He struck out the first four batters he faced and finished with 3.1 shutout innings. It was a needed shot in the arm as Cessa provided some relief to a bullpen corps that had been taxed a bit earlier this series after short outings from CC Sabathia and Caleb Smith.
Faria came to the end of his rope in the fifth. Walks to Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier to open the inning forced manager Kevin Cash to pull Faria in favor of Sergio Romo to face Aaron Judge. Romo fanned Judge and retired Matt Holliday, before Dan Jennings came on to induce a groundout from Didi Gregorius to extinguish the rally.
The Yankees wasted another big opportunity in the sixth. The bases were loaded with just one out, but Cash pushed the right button again, bringing on Steve Cishek, who retired Gardner and Clint Frazier to end the threat.
The Rays tacked on in the eighth in a rare poor moment from Chad Green. Souza doubled home Mallex Smith to extend their lead to 5-3. That Souza’s double came with two outs should come as no surprise, as every Tampa Bay run was crushingly scored with two outs.
The Yankees had one final chance in the ninth, putting a pair of runners on with one out against Rays closer Alex Colome. Neither Judge nor Holliday could come through with the decisive blow, and Colome earned his 30th save of the season.
The Yankees managed just one hit with runners in scoring position, while the Rays had five. There wasn’t much to separate the two teams, and the winning difference came down to hits (or lack thereof) at key moments. Even so, the Red Sox dropped another game to the Royals, meaning the Yankees are still alone in first in the AL East. They’ll look to widen their lead again tomorrow night, when they begin a home series against the Tigers in the first game post-trade deadline.