NEW YORK -- It seemed like the moment the Yankees had been waiting for all afternoon. They'd trailed for almost the entirety of a close game and Didi Gregorius opened the bottom of the eighth against the Rays with an infield hit and then reached second on a throwing error
NEW YORK -- It seemed like the moment the Yankees had been waiting for all afternoon. They'd trailed for almost the entirety of a close game and Didi Gregorius opened the bottom of the eighth against the Rays with an infield hit and then reached second on a throwing error by pitcher Diego Castillo on a pickoff attempt. The middle of the order on the top offensive team in baseball was due up.
The moment, however, never arrived as Castillo did a number on the heart of the Yankees' lineup. He struck out Giancarlo Stanton on a full-count breaking ball, got Greg Bird to ground out and fanned Gary Sanchez on three pitches. His escape helped the Rays secure a 3-1 Father's Day victory before a sellout crowd of 46,400 at Yankee Stadium.
It snapped a three-game winning streak for the Yanks, who have still won 13 of their last 17.
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The absence of offense -- the Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position -- made a loser out of starter Carsten Sabathia on a day where he pitched well enough to win. The left-hander went a season-high 7 2/3 innings and allowed three runs.
"The offense wasn't able to put it together and get something going for him. It's a tough one," Aaron Judge said. "When the offense doesn't get going and CC [is] busting his butt like that, it is pretty frustrating."
Manager Aaron Boone was asked if he expected that the three runs wouldn't be enough against his lineup. He replied, "Always."
"And that's no disrespect ever to the opponent, it's just I always know that we're some traffic away from popping one," he added. "We had a little traffic and threw some hits out there, but we just couldn't get over the hump. They held us down and kept us at bay today."
The Rays were going with one of their bullpen games, where relievers pitch all nine innings. Five pitchers, beginning with Wilmer Font, held the Yanks to seven hits and one run -- on Aaron Hicks' eighth homer of the season in the fifth.
Sabathia allowed traffic on the bases throughout -- he gave up 10 hits and a walk -- but made most of the pitches when he needed to. He struck out 10, his 38th career game with 10 or more and first since striking out 12 Blue Jays on Aug. 17, 2016, in the Bronx.
For all the baserunners, the Rays only made him pay for it in the second when they scored three runs for a 3-0 lead.
Willy Adames and Adeiny Hechavarria singled to put runners at the corners and Carlos Gomez doubled in a run. Sabathia got Rob Refsnyder to pop out and whiffed Johnny Field, but Matt Duffy singled to right to score two more runs.
"Early, his stuff was almost too good and he didn't have great command the first few innings. It was coming out crispy, but I don't think he had the command that he normally does," Boone said. "In the middle innings, he settled in and found it. He got better as the day went on."
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"Sometimes when I am feeling good I overthrow and the pitches don't make the action they are supposed to," Sabathia said. "I gave up the hit to Duffy with two out and two strikes, and I probably could have made a better pitch."
In the fifth, the Rays called on Jose Alvarado to relieve Font and he immediately got into hot water. With his first 10 pitches, the left-hander walked Judge and Gregorius to bring up Stanton. Alvarado got him to swing at a breaking pitch for strike three to end the inning. On the season, Stanton is 5-for-27 (.185) with two outs and runners in scoring position.
This was Sabathia's first loss at Yankee Stadium since Aug. 1, 2017. It ended a run of 12 regular-season home starts without a defeat.
HE SAID IT
"He's still working to be 'on-time' and get started to his rhythm of hitting. ... That's what he's struggled with: consistently being on-time. That's when you have a tendency to expand or be behind on the fastball or behind on the breaking ball. That's something as a hitter you have to feel and keep working on and trust it will come. He's got to feel that. Once he does he can go on a run like an MVP."
-- Boone, on Stanton's inconsistency
The Yankees will spend Monday in Washington resolving issues created by weather during their mid-May trip there. At 5:05 p.m. ET, they will resume the game with the Nationals that was halted by rain on May 15 with the score tied at 3 in the middle of the sixth. Sonny Gray (4-4, 4.98 ERA) will start the makeup of the May 16 rainout 30 minutes after the conclusion of the suspended game.
Roger Rubin is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.