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Yankees 2, Rays 8: Nick Nelson experiment fails miserably, bats silenced for first six innings

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The boos rained down on another feeble performance by the Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It was a cold, dreary night at Yankee Stadium, and the overall performance of the Bronx Bombers reflected the meteorological environment in which they played. From the word go, the Yankees were never really in this one. Opener Nick Nelson spotted the Rays a two-run first inning lead, and the ensuing uphill battle for the Bombers proved to be a Sisyphean task.

Nelson walked leadoff batter Austin Meadows, and then surrendered back-to-back doubles to Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe. Before you could even find your seat, the Rays were already up 2-0. He managed to right the ship and prevent any further damage in the inning, but his high pitch count (30), declining velocity, and general ineffectiveness ensured he would not return for the second inning.

The opener strategy only works if the pitcher who leads it off can actually, y’know, pitch. Nelson was abysmal. It begs the question why Mike King, who was stellar in six scoreless innings against the Blue Jays two weeks ago, wasn’t just deployed as a traditional starter. A question reinforced by King’s clean top of the second, needing only 18 pitches and picking up two strikeouts. The Yankees got their first baserunner of the night on Gio Urshela’s second inning line drive single to center, but Wacha retired Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez to end the inning.

King created some more trouble in the third with a leadoff HBP to Brandon Lowe, who advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Yandy Diaz grounded past DJ LeMahieu at first. King got Joey Wendle to strikeout swinging and looked to have miraculously escaped the jam on Manny Margot’s line drive right at Rougned Odor, but the second baseman hit Diaz with the attempted double-up throw back to first. Thus it looked destined for something else to go awry in the inning, but King struck out Mike Brosseau swinging to end the threat.

King again worked himself into and out of trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with three straight two-out walks to Meadows, Arozarena, and Lowe, but induced a Diaz groundout to escape unscathed. He was on the short end of some questionable calls from home plate umpire Jerry Layne, but he certainly did himself no favors with the number of pitches not close to the zone. His final line: three shutout innings, two hits, three walks, and four strikeouts.

It was another listless performance from the Yankees offense, as they had to wait until the fourth for their next baserunner, a base on balls for Torres. They made Wacha look like the next coming of Jacob deGrom, throwing a nine-strikeout one-hitter over six innings. It doesn’t matter how effective Nelson and King were or weren’t, you’re gonna have a hard time winning a game in which you pick up only three baserunners in the first six frames.

Luis Cessa came on for the fifth and delivered your typical Cessa experience. He has always had nasty stuff, but he routinely misses spots either out of the zone or in the hitter’s wheelhouse. Wendle led off the inning with a single, and after Brosseau doubled him home to make it 3-0, the innings turned into a real comedy of errors.

Adames grounded a sharp double off Urshela’s glove, which Torres fielded in short left field. Gary Sánchez could not corral his throw home, allowing Brousseau to score and Adames to advance to second. Cessa promptly walked the bases full to bring Arozarena to the plate. Cessa looked like he had worked out of the jam with a tailor-made double play ball to Torres, but Odor’s throw sailed well wide of first, allowing two more runs to score. By the time the dust had settled on the inning, it was 6-0 Rays.

Lucas Luetge entered for the sixth and gave up three straight singles to start his outing. He then retired Brosseau and and Adames, but a bloop single by Mike Zunino dropped right in front of the outstretched glove of a diving Clint Frazier in left to plate two more and make it 8-0. When it rains, it pours.

The Yankees avoided the shutout and complete humiliation in the seventh. Torres led off with a single to center and Giancarlo Stanton launched a middle-up fastball into the seats in right. The 112.4 mph, 398 foot home run cut the deficit to 8-2.

The late-inning blast was all the scoring the Yankees would muster, as they went gently into that (not-so) good night. Jordan Montgomery is expected to take on Rays ace Tyler Glasnow in the middle game of the series tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET, so join us in the game tread for that afternoon matchup.

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