The Yankees’ offense has been a little quiet lately, and there’s been some (silly) conversation about whether they rely too heavily on the home run. Today, the offense finally woke up a bit, but it wasn’t enough. They rallied repeatedly, and the bullpen was outstanding in relief an ineffective Domingo German. In the end, they left Tampa Bay after 12 innings, having been swept in costly fashion.
German, like his last outing, had a rough start. Kevin Kiermaier took him to deep left-center for a lead-off triple, and Matt Duffy immediately brought him home, grounding a double inside the right field line. Two outs later, Carlos Gomez drove in Duffy with another double to make it 2-0.
One of the defining themes of this Yankees’ season, though, is that no lead is safe, and they quickly went to work erasing the early deficit. Giancarlo Stanton doubled, Aaron Hicks walked, and Miguel Andujar smashed a three-run dinger to put the Yankees ahead:
Still, the Rays struck right back. Adeiny Hechavarria, who entered the game with just 24 career home runs, took German deep on a changeup that ran back over the plate. 3-3.
The parade of extra-base knocks continued in the third. Jake Bauers led off with a booming triple, and Gomez notched another RBI with a single to left. After an infield single from Mallex Smith, Jesus Sucre grounded a double down the left field line for two more and a 6-3 lead.
Neither starting pitcher could make it out of the fourth. Rays’ starter Matt Andriese was pulled after putting the first two batters on, though hard-throwing lefty Jose Alvarado extinguished the threat, and Aaron Boone pulled German for Adam Warren after German hit Kiermaier to lead off the bottom of fourth.
German had been on a nice run of late, turning in three straight starts with at least nine strikeouts and at most three runs, but he struggled today. He wasn’t generating strikeouts and was getting killed on balls in play. Any start in which a pitcher gets victimized by balls in ball probably involves a little bad luck, but German found a lot of loud contact when he came into the zone. His line ended at three innings, nine hits, six runs and two strikeouts.
Diego Castillo came on for the fifth and the Yankees’ relentless offense continued to resurface. Brett Gardner walked, and Didi Gregorius and Stanton fired off back-to-back doubles to cut the lead to 6-5.
The seesaw battle between the two teams calmed down a bit, though. Warren and Jonathan Holder combined to hold down the Rays through the middle innings. Vidal Nuno recorded a pair of scoreless innings against his former team, and the the Yankees still trailed by a run entering the eighth.
As the scoring ebbed, it seemed as if this was a comeback which the Yankees wouldn’t quite complete. But Stanton led off the top half of the inning by drilling a solo, game-tying shot into the left field bleachers. That punctuated a five-hit game for Stanton, who is coming alive as the Yankees near the midpoint of the season.
The Yankees’ bullpen continued to do excellent work in relief of German. David Robertson tallied a scoreless eighth, and Dellin Betances worked the ninth as the game went to extras. The bullpen would go on to post eight consecutive no-hit innings.
Possibly keeping the Yankees from winning in regulation was Tropicana Field itself. A high fly from the pinch-hitting Clint Frazier caromed off a set of speakers hanging above the field, and the shortstop Hechavarria alertly caught the ball on a fly for the out. Frazier might have had a game-winning homer, or at worst a foul ball, but instead he retreated to the dugout.
The tough luck continued in the tenth. Gary Sanchez grounded into a double play, and injured his groin after running hard down the line. Sanchez takes a little bit of flak for not running out every groundball, but his supposed lack of effort really is an act of self-preservation. With Sanchez potentially on the shelf after trying to hustle out a groundball, that act appears highly justified.
Chad Green worked a scoreless 10th and 11th, but Boone called on Chasen Shreve, rather than Aroldis Chapman, for the 12th. Rookie Jake Bauers blasted the first pitch he saw from Shreve out to right-center, sending the Yankees home from Tampa winless. It was a brutal game, a frustrating and costly one.
This was a tough loss in every aspect. The Yankees shook off some offensive struggles and rallied, only to fall short. They emptied out their vaunted bullpen in vain. Most importantly, they lost their star catcher to injury in the effort. With Boston defeating the Mariners today, the Yankees are no longer alone in first in the AL East. They’ll look to get things back on track tomorrow, as they start an inter-league set in Philadelphia.