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Rays 8, Yankees 7: Too little, too late after crushing Walls slam

Today’s comeback fell just a bit short as the Yankees split a four-game set with the Rays.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon, 8-7, leaving the Yankees just short of a third consecutive dramatic comeback victory. The Rays move back to 20 games over .500 at 31-11, four games clear of the streaking Orioles in second place. The Yankees drop to 23-19 in a virtual tie with the Red Sox for last place in the AL East, pending the results of Boston’s game against St. Louis tonight.

It was more of the same for Clarke Schmidt this afternoon, who departed after 4.2 innings, the sixth time he’s failed to make it to inning number five in nine attempts, with four Tampa Bay runs on the board and the bases loaded. Schmidt led with the cutter against a lefty-heavy Rays lineup, but as has been the case all season, his command of the pitch was too scattershot to avoid getting punished when it counted.

Honestly, the same was true of Schmidt’s entire pitch mix on this afternoon. While the overall numbers don’t look terrible, the story can be told in two charts. Separate the locations of his fastballs and his breaking balls shows us much of went wrong: An inability to hit corners and the plate writ large with the sinker and sweeper, and a subsequent inability to avoid the middle of the plate with the cutter and curveball, the latter of which managed just a 14-percent CSW rate.

Baseball Savant
Baseball Savant

There’s also the fact that nearly every single sinker Schmidt did get into the zone got absolutely crushed, including hits of 103 mph and 109 mph from Yandy Díaz and Jose Siri, or this triple from Taylor Walls:

It sums it up well enough. Even with all of that, Schmidt still needed to get bailed out by the defense in big spots, most notably an incredible diving catch by Harrison Bader with the bases loaded that likely saved two runs.

Bader’s unbelievable catch sadly didn’t end up mattering all that much because it was immediately followed by the walk that ended Schmidt’s afternoon in favor of Albert Abreu. It’s been an exhausting stretch for the Yankees’ bullpen, but Michael King and Ian Hamilton were available and Ron Marinaccio eventually pitched in this game. Even though it was the fifth, Abreu was a suspect choice.

Anyway, Abreu proceeded to throw four consecutive changeups to Walls, who managed to make up for his almost-dinger when the last of those cambios resulted in this:

Oof. There was still plenty of space for yet another comeback in spite of a salami, though. On the offensive side, the lineup managed to get to Zach Eflin early, first on a unicorn two-run “blast” from Oswaldo Cabrera that would have been a fly out in any park without the short porch. A no-doubter from Anthony Rizzo gave them a 4-3 lead, prior to the disastrous fifth:

After Walls’ exclamation point to make it 8-4, however, things remained calm through the middle innings, with the only disturbance in the force coming in the bottom of the seventh, when the MVP cut it to a more manageable three-run lead:

DJ LeMahieu’s single to lead off the eighth inning provided some promise. and two outs later, Anthony Volpe delivered, cutting the lead to one with his sixth home run of the year:

Ultimately, it was for naught, as another comeback was not in the cards. While the non-Abreu members of the Yankees bullpen delivered another solid performance, holding Tampa Bay scoreless for the remainder of the game, Jason Adam secured his fifth save of the year with Judge missing a game-tying blast by just a few feet to end the game.

All in all, it was a missed opportunity for a Yankees team that won’t see the Rays again until August and will need all the breaks they can get the rest of the way. Aaron Boone’s decision to leave Schmidt in the game long enough to re-load the bases, even after being so dramatically bailed out by Bader, was equally baffling as the previously discussed decision to turn to Abreu in lieu of a higher-leverage option.

Taking three of four from this Rays teams could have served as a turning point in the season, instead, the Yankees once again will try to figure out how to get out of their own way moving forward. They’ll attempt to kickstart that tomorrow evening, when they travel to Toronto to begin another important three-game set with the Blue Jays. First pitch is at 7:07pm ET with a TBA starter (maybe Jhony Brito but no one is announced yet) facing Alek Manoah.

Box Score