TORONTO -- Sonny Gray had been out of the game so long, he'd showered and dressed in his street clothes by the time the final out was recorded. Returning to his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre, the hurler changed into a workout T-shirt bearing the Yankees logo
TORONTO -- Sonny Gray had been out of the game so long, he'd showered and dressed in his street clothes by the time the final out was recorded. Returning to his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre, the hurler changed into a workout T-shirt bearing the Yankees logo before blinking hard, facing the cameras after another early knockout.
Rattling through a checklist of possible explanations that have already been exhausted, Gray said that he feels "great" physically and has a good game plan going into each start, taking the mound with a clear mind. Results have not followed, and though Gray expressed frustration after the Yankees' 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays, he also recognizes that it is not productive to do so.
"It's easy to get down in the dumps and walk around with your head down," Gray said. "I need to stay positive and continue to put in the work, and hopefully turn this thing around. That's all I can really do at this point, is continue to put in the work and continue to try to find the solution."
Gray lasted a season-low two innings as he was pounded for five runs, including a three-run Justin Smoak homer, and tagged for his third consecutive loss. Though Aaron Boone acknowledged being "concerned" by Gray's issues, the Yankees' manager also expressed confidence, saying that "right now, we feel like he's our best option" to continue making starts.
As such, Boone said that Gray will remain in the rotation to face the cellar-dwelling Orioles next week.
"I think he can right it in the rotation," Boone said. "He's got another one coming up in Baltimore [on Wednesday]. I do feel like it's one of those things that can click for him. One good start can lead to another and it can start to snowball like we've seen at times this year. We've got to help him get there in every way."
Gray wriggled free of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning but was hurt in the second, as Devon Travis and Curtis Granderson knocked run-scoring singles that set up Smoak's well-struck blast to the right-center-field seats on a hanging slider. Just 34 of Gray's 62 pitches were strikes, a fact Boone noted in explaining why he went to the bullpen early.
"It's not early in the season anymore," Gray said. "This is when you're expected to go out there and contribute and get in some type of rhythm. Go out and put together solid starts back to back. I haven't even been close to being able to do that."
David Hale took over for the third inning and contributed 5 2/3 frames of one-run relief, but the Bombers' bats were unable to answer against Sam Gaviglio and the Toronto bullpen, save for Aaron Hicks' career-high 16th homer in the third inning and a bases-loaded walk in the fifth.
Making the longest relief appearance of his career, Hale blanked Toronto through his first five innings before surrendering a pair of doubles to Aledmys Diaz and Teoscar Hernandez in the eighth, giving the Blue Jays a four-run lead.
"It's always nice to go out there and get some good innings in, but also to help out the bullpen," Hale said. "Games like that when you don't have too much depth from the starter can really hurt the bullpen. I'm glad I was able to help out."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Yankees had a key opportunity in the fifth inning after Gaviglio forced home a run with a walk to Hicks. That set up a bases-loaded chance for Giancarlo Stanton against Joe Biagini, who fell behind Stanton with three straight pitches out of the strike zone. Biagini recovered to fan Stanton with his next three pitches and Didi Gregorius lined out, ending the Yanks' most promising threat.
"We all want him to come through and get a big hit, but you'll beat your head into the wall," Boone said of Stanton. "Bottom line is, more often than not, you're not going to come through. He got a 3-0 pitch that he tipped and they made a couple of pitches on him. That happens. I go back to -- we want to continue to create traffic. The more we can do that, the more we're going to score and we're going to win."
Hicks has 10 home runs in his last 19 games. Only two other switch-hitting Yankees have tallied that many homers in a 19-game span -- Mickey Mantle (accomplished many times) and Mark Teixeira in 2009.
Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA) will look to build upon his Major League-leading win total on Saturday at 4:07 p.m. ET, as the Yankees and Blue Jays continue their weekend series at Rogers Centre. Severino, whose ERA leads the American League and is second in the Majors, will carry a 13 2/3 scoreless-inning streak into the effort. J.A. Happ (10-4, 4.03 ERA), who has been mentioned as a possible trade target for the Yankees, is scheduled to make the start for Toronto.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.