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Hicks' tying HR in dramatic 9th can't save Yanks

Rays answer with walk-off shot; Sabathia goes season-high 7 innings
@Sportsgal25
July 6, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees seem to relish in the thrill of the unexpected this weekend, preferring late-game excitement to early offense and extra innings to regulation. Their offense ran out of tricks on Saturday, however, and New York fell to the Rays, 4-3, on a ninth-inning walk-off home run

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees seem to relish in the thrill of the unexpected this weekend, preferring late-game excitement to early offense and extra innings to regulation.

Their offense ran out of tricks on Saturday, however, and New York fell to the Rays, 4-3, on a ninth-inning walk-off home run by Travis d’Arnaud at Tropicana Field. Despite the loss, New York still owns a 9-3 record against the Rays this season and a 7 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

Box score

“When you play [the Rays], runs are tough to come by,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Sometimes, you take for granted when we’ve been scoring like we have. We created traffic today.

“... I thought we gave ourselves a really good chance to score a bunch of runs today, we just couldn’t quite push through.”

Much as they had during the first two games of this series, the Yankees waited until the late innings for the bats to come around. Brett Gardner smashed his 14th homer of the season in the second inning, but it was the lone run New York mustered against reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.

The Yankees managed five hits and drew a pair of walks during the lefty’s five innings, and they even loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but were unable to convert.

In a frustrating trend that revealed itself throughout the game, New York passed up more than a few chances to capitalize with runners on. In fact, the Yankees were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position until the seventh, when Aaron Hicks broke a 1-1 tie with a scorching RBI single to right field.

Then New York loaded the bases again, but Edwin Encarnacion lined out to end the inning.

The lack of production came back to bite the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh, when starter CC Sabathia allowed a two-out single followed by a Nate Lowe home run -- just the second of his career -- to put the Rays ahead, 3-2.

“It’s frustrating, especially having a lefty up there, a guy I know I can get out,” Sabathia said. “I’ve just got to make a better pitch.”

New York had the tying run on second in the eighth but again came up empty. In the ninth with the Yankees down to their last strike, Hicks again delivered, this time bringing the crowd to its feet with a solo homer to tie the game.

The shot marked his third career game-tying home run to come in the eighth inning or later, and the second in as many games. Hicks has played a crucial role during the series, delivering a game-tying or go-ahead hit in all three games so far.

“It’s awesome,” he said of Saturday’s homer. “You know, in situations like that, you always want to come up big for your team, and that was obviously a big time in the game to be able to tie it up right there, so of course I’m excited.”

The excitement surrounding Saturday’s roundtripper was soon forgotten, though, when d’Arnaud stroked a two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Chad Green for the final blow.

The defeat ended a six-game win streak against the Rays and spoiled a solid all-around effort from Sabathia, who held Tampa Bay to three runs during a season-high seven innings.

The veteran lefty operated under the luxury of 11 days of rest and it definitely showed. Fresh, rested and riding high one day after MLB announced it would honor him during next week’s All-Star festivities, Sabathia cruised through the first inning, retiring the side on 12 pitches.

After a speed bump in the second during which the Rays singled twice and scored a run, Sabathia dialed it up a notch. He retired Tampa Bay in order during the following three innings on 22 total pitches, capped by a four-pitch fifth.

“I thought he was really good,” Boone said. “I thought he got really efficient in the middle innings there. Obviously, the mistake there at the end where Lowe got him, but otherwise, I thought he threw the ball really well.”

Sabathia’s momentum grew as he worked, and after opening the sixth frame with a single and a walk, he fought back to escape unscathed, finishing at least six innings for the third consecutive outing.

New York’s offense, on the other hand, ran out of luck on Saturday.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.