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Stagnant offense dooms Yankees in 4-2 loss to Rays

First place in the division will be up for grabs tomorrow afternoon.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

You could rationalize it with details of how many key players have gone down for the Yankees, you could argue that it’s a matchup problem or you could say that the other team simply has their number right now. What you can’t explain away is the results, and Wednesday’s result is a 4-2 loss to the Rays.

You could start with the bullpen, and how things tipped in the Rays’ favor, but it might be more important to highlight how the offense has played of late. The Yankees went 0-for with runners in scoring position tonight, something that has been dogging them of late. They didn’t put many men on base to begin with, as the team collected four hits total, but they got a pair of walks to start the ninth inning — bringing the winning run to the plate with no outs.

From there, the rally died swiftly. Brett Gardner lifted a weak fly to center field for the first out, and then the pair of pinch-hitter Miguel Andújar and Thairo Estrada struck out to end it. Andújar was pinch hitting for Mike Tauchman, who had pinch-hit for Clint Frazier earlier in the game. Frazier has been red-hot of late, so it was questionable to lift him from the game, and Andújar has struggled mightily in a small amount of opportunities this year. With the game on the line it was a risky gamble to put Andújar up at the plate, and one that didn’t pay off. This was likely a case of Aaron Boone over-managing, something that hasn’t been a problem often but has significant consequences in such a short season.

The Yankees were pushed into this position in the eighth inning, when Zack Britton failed to maintain a 2-2 tie. Britton had come on for the final out of the seventh, and began the eighth with a blunder fielding first base that allowed Yandy Diaz to reach second. Diaz would get erased on a fielder’s choice, but not before a walk put another runner on base. The Rays then sent up pinch-hitter Mike Brosseau, who slapped a single to center and broke the tie. Willy Adames added a crucial insurance run with another single, and Jonathan Loaisiga had to be called in to clean things up.

After the game it was revealed that Britton was being looked at with an apparent leg injury after he grabbed his leg coming off of the mound. It’s unclear if this is something that could’ve been prevented by getting Britton out of the game earlier or not, but considering the way that Britton was struggling after dominating this season it’s another mark against Boone’s night. Hopefully it isn’t a significant injury, but it’s something we’ll have to monitor for now.

The mess that was the final few innings of the game wasted another excellent Gerrit Cole start, one that nearly had him eligible for his fifth win of the season. Cole pitched 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out 10. He did serve up a pair of solo shots, something that has been peculiarly common throughout Cole’s starts this year, but was otherwise dominant. He was also clearly not happy with exiting an out before ending the seventh, as he was in a foul mood in the dugout after walking off of the field and quickly went into the clubhouse. That may just be the competitive nature of Cole, but it could also be a bit of frustration on what ended up being a difficult game to swallow.

One bright spot for the offense has been Luke Voit, who is continuing to crush the ball with authority. Voit slugged his ninth home run of the year in the third inning off of Tyler Glasnow, tying him with Aaron Judge for the team lead. Voit’s offensive surge continues to prove that, when healthy, he is one of the American League’s best hitters, and the Yankees will need him to anchor this lineup for a bit.

The loss drops the Yankees to a 16-8 record, just a half game ahead of the Rays. That means that Thursday’s series finale will be a contest for first place in the AL East, something that it seems these two teams will go back-and-forth with for a while. That’s not as concerning with this year’s expanded playoffs, but it is concerning that Tampa Bay has so thoroughly beaten them thus far. It also officially snaps the Yankees’ undefeated home series streak at 27.

The finale will feature James Paxton for the Yankees, looking to string together a stretch of decent starts after an abysmal beginning to his year, and John Curtiss for the Rays, who will likely be an opener. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EST.

Box Score.