NEW YORK -- On the August afternoon that Sonny Gray tried on a Yankees cap for the first time, he exuded excitement about the idea of playing in New York, calling it a place "where you're expected to win and you're expected to perform." That challenge is about to be magnified.
Gray stumbled in his final regular-season effort for his new club, issuing five walks for just the second time in his career. He couldn't complete five innings, setting up a seven-run frame for the Rays as the Yankees dropped a 9-6 decision Thursday evening at Yankee Stadium.
"Obviously, I didn't throw that many strikes," Gray said. "Any time you walk five guys, you're fighting yourself a little bit, and it all seemed to catch up with me in the fifth. When you're constantly giving guys free passes and there's one or two plays and then a big home run, it just turns everything around."
Gray's next outing would come in a postseason setting, with the right-hander lined up to pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan, should the Yankees advance past the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game. The Yanks are still alive in the AL East, but with an elimination number of one, a Red Sox win or Yankees loss would give Boston the division title.
Having held Tampa Bay to a Corey Dickerson solo homer through the first four innings, Gray's outing went off the rails in the fifth. Tampa Bay scored runs on a Gray wild pitch and Gary Sanchez's Major League-leading 16th passed ball, preceding a 93.5-mph fastball that Wilson Ramos mashed for a go-ahead two-run homer.
"I was kind of all over the place all night," Gray said. "I made it hard on Gary from the first inning. I threw a lot of balls in the dirt. I thought he did a great job. When I was throwing that many pitches in the dirt, it's tough to know what the ball's going to do."
Gray threw just three more pitches before handing the ball over to manager Joe Girardi. Girardi said that he has confidence in the 27-year-old Gray despite his hot-and-cold run as a Yankee.
"I think he's pitched pretty well for us," Girardi said. "We haven't scored a lot of runs for him; now, tonight, we scored him some runs. But I feel pretty good about him."
Jonathan Holder couldn't bail Gray out. The righty hit Daniel Robertson with a curveball, allowed a run-scoring Cesar Puello single and then served up Peter Bourjos' two-run triple before exiting.
"I just needed one out," Girardi said. "I was looking at one out. There were guys that I didn't have tonight. There were guys who have been used a lot and I didn't want them to go multiple innings. We just needed that one out and unfortunately Holder wasn't able to get it for us."
Six of the runs were charged to Gray, finalizing his regular-season stats at 10-12 with a 3.55 ERA in 27 starts. As a Yankee, Gray has gone 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA, and said that he is looking forward to the games that count more.
"It's over with," Gray said. "I struggled, but the quicker I can put this behind me, the quicker I can move on."