The Rays are the team that pioneered the use of the opener, but tonight, they won on the back of an old-fashioned dominant starting pitching performance. While the Yankees were the ones using an opener, in the form of Jonathan Loaisiga, the Rays sent Charlie Morton to the mound. The Yankees knew they had a difficult matchup facing a Cy Young candidate, and he showed them he’s one of the best in the game.
Morton carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning, and even when he was relieved, the Bombers couldn’t muster a hint of offense. The Rays won 3-0, completing the two-game sweep of the Yankees and dealing another blow to New York’s home-field advantage hopes.
The Rays got the scoring started early against Loaisiga. Joey Wendle led off the bottom of the first by going deep to dead center, propelling the Rays to a quick 1-0 lead. Tampa Bay wasn’t done there, though. With runners on first and third, Brandon Lowe singled, plating another run and extending their lead to two. The Rays jumped all over Loaisiga’s fastball and barreled it all over the field for four hits and two earned runs in the first. Not an impressive outing from Loaisiga, one that could impact his chances of earning a playoff roster spot.
J.A. Happ took over in the second inning in relief, serving as the follower to Loaisiga’s opener. It was the first time since 2015 that Happ made an appearance out of the bullpen. After a single by the leadoff hitter, he struck out the next three, and went into cruise control.
Happ’s work was in vain, however, as Morton was flummoxing the Yankees. The Yankees didn’t manage a hit until DJ LeMahieu lined a single with two outs in the sixth. New York managed to get runners at first and second there, but both were stranded, keeping the game at 2-0. Morton finished after six innings, surrendering that one hit, and striking out nine.
Meanwhile, after matching zeroes with Morton for a few innings, Happ finally cracked in the sixth. Avisail Garcia lined a singe into center, followed by a double by Matt Duffy down the third base line scored the runner, giving the Rays a 3-0 lead.
Happ was great overall in his five innings of work. He allowed four hits, one run, and recorded six strikeouts. If needed in a relief role in October, Happ proved he can complete the task against a playoff-caliber team.
The Rays added another run in the eighth, this time off of Luis Cessa. Garcia blasted a hanging breaking-ball off the catwalk in left field. That gave the Rays a 4-0 advantage. Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Nick Anderson, and Andrew Kittredge locked down the final few innings against an oddly over-matched Yankee lineup, finishing the shutout of the highest scoring team in the league.
Not only did the Yankees not score a single run, but it’s also the first time in franchise history they did not score, had one or fewer hits, and struck out 16 times.
After today, New York gets a much needed day off tomorrow, and will resume play on Friday against the Texas Rangers. James Paxton is scheduled to pitch, seeking his 11th consecutive win.