Thriller falls apart for Rays as 'pen loses grip

July 17th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The season series between the Rays and Yankees has been filled with late-inning heroics, and Tuesday night’s game was no different, as New York scored six runs off reliever Colin Poche in the eighth inning to lead New York to an 8-3 win at Yankee Stadium.

Austin Meadows gave the Rays an early lead with a solo home run, his second since the All-Star break, in the second inning. did the rest of the work offensively with a solo home run in the fourth inning and an RBI double in the sixth to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.

DJ LeMahieu answered right back, connecting on a solo home run of his own in the sixth. But it was Aaron Judge who delivered the decisive blow with a go-ahead two-run home run off Poche to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead with two outs in the eighth inning. Didi Gregorius delivered the knockout punch with a grand slam four batters later, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead.

Poche, who relies on a fastball that he throws 95 percent of the time, admitted that his command was slightly off on Tuesday, which resulted in the left-hander giving up the two home runs.

“The command of [the fastball] obviously wasn’t there,” Poche said. “Just kind of kept missing spots, and they kept putting good swings on pitches. Fell behind on some counts, and they put some barrels on the ball the whole inning.”

But while the two home runs ultimately led to all of the runs in the inning, Poche says it was the leadoff walk to Gleyber Torres that he wishes he could take back.

“With that lineup, you’re going to give up home runs, and you really just want to keep guys off the bases,” Poche said. “Any team you face, you can’t walk the leadoff hitter, and I think that was kind of indicative of where my command was today.”

Manager Kevin Cash said that the Rays could’ve gone with right-hander to face Judge, but he liked the matchup with Poche because the Yankees outfielder had zero career at-bats against Poche coming into the game.

“If you get the fastball above Judge’s path, you have a chance for a popup or something,” Cash said. “Also, we were pretty taxed with the bullpen, and we had already gotten aggressive with Jalen [Beeks']’s outing. Then to go to [Hunter Wood], we were kind of running thin.”


Despite the loss, the Rays did accomplish some positives on Tuesday. The team played heads-up defense, converting on a 6-5-4-4-3 double play to end a threat in the fifth inning. Wood and Poche did some quality things, despite Poche allowing six two-out runs in the eighth.

Beeks, who was recalled from Triple-A Durham before the game, pitched well in relief in his return to the big league club, allowing just one run and striking out five over 3 1/3 innings.

The offense, however, was unable to add to the lead and missed out on significant chances, including a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the seventh inning, which ended with David Hale getting to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

Then the Rays’ bullpen, which has received significant criticism lately, was unable to hold onto the lead in the late innings. It’s the third time in the last six meetings between the two teams that the Rays have allowed a six-run frame in the eighth inning or later.

The loss came with some extra drama, which has been the case in most of the games that CC Sabathia has pitched against the Rays. Sabathia struck out looking to close the sixth inning, but the two exchanged some words as the Yankees starter was returning to the dugout, ultimately causing both dugouts and bullpens to clear.

“I didn’t say anything,” Garcia said. “I respect him, good competitor and it’s fun to face him. I respect him, so I don’t have anything to say. It was for no reason. He was trying to do his job, I was trying to do my job, so there’s no problem at all.”

It served as another sign of a brewing rivalry between the Rays and the Yankees, who will face off just four more times this season. But on Tuesday, it was the Yankees’ turn to answer back, evening up the current four-game series.

“The past two series with them, it’s been kind of dramatic,” Rays shortstop said. “It’s been close up until the ninth, the eighth, someone takes the lead, either them or us. I like those types of games. The intensity is really good, and it’s kind of like playoff games. I like the battle.”