NEW YORK -- However they arrange their staff and whatever lineup they face, the Rays are going to have to pitch better than they did the past two days at Yankee Stadium.
It's as simple as that.
The starting pitcher can't use up 90 pitches to get just 10 outs, as Blake Snell did in Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Yankees. The Rays can't give up two three-run home runs in one game and three two-run home runs in the next, as they did in the two games in this series.
The Yankees' lineup is tough. Everyone knows it. But the Rays believe in their pitchers, especially when they send their top two starters out for a two-game series.
"I give that lineup all the credit in the world, but our pitchers are equipped to challenge any lineup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Because they didn't, the Rays own a five-game losing streak that equals the longest one they had last season. They own a 1-5 record, their worst after six games since the 2011 team started off 0-6.
"I just looked at them and said, 'Stay positive,'" Cash said. "Obviously, we have not gotten off to the start we wanted, but it is a long season. No panicking."
Snell wasn't panicking, but he did think he learned something from his poor outing. He gave up a long home run to Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning and another homer to Gary Sanchez in the third.
"It's a challenge [to face them]," Snell said. "You make it more of a challenge if you fall behind in the count. I was nitpicking. Last [start], I wasn't.
"My next start is against the White Sox [on Tuesday]. I'll be ready for them, with no nitpicking."
With a bullpen day scheduled for Thursday in Boston -- Yonny Chirinos will start, but won't be asked to go deep in the game -- the Rays had reason for concern when Snell couldn't make it past the fourth inning vs. the Yankees. But Matt Andriese got the next eight outs, so they didn't need to use too much of the bullpen.
"Three and a third is not going to work with any rotation plan," Cash said. "We've got to have successful pitching, efficient pitching, top to bottom."
They'll need to hit, too. A week into the season, seven of the nine batters in Wednesday's lineup finished the day with a batting average under .200.
It's a long season, but it's been a difficult first week.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Jeers to cheers: After hearing boos in the late innings of the Yankees' home opener, Stanton rebounded from the first five-strikeout game of his career, cracking a first-inning line drive off Snell that marked his first Bronx homer with the Yankees. At 117.9 mph, Stanton's drive to left field was the hardest-hit ball in the Majors so far this season, traveling a projected 458 feet according to Statcast™.
"Just a hanging slider," Snell said.
Kiermaier and Cron deliver: Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier entered the day hitless in his previous 14 at-bats, so it was a welcome sight when he singled in the first inning. It was even better for the Rays when C.J. Cron followed with a double to left field, scoring Kiermaier and giving the Rays a short-lived lead.
"They can hit the home runs. They can strike out as well. If I'm more consistent, it can be different." -- Snell, on facing the Yankees' lineup
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rays have lost 11 consecutive series at Yankee Stadium, their longest streak in the Bronx. They are 8-25 at Yankee Stadium since Sept. 10, 2014 (and also lost two of three to the Yankees last September at Citi Field in a series that was moved from Tropicana Field because of Hurricane Irma).
Rays: Tampa Bay moves on to Fenway Park, where it will play the Red Sox at 2:05 p.m. ET on Thursday in Boston's home opener. It'll be a bullpen day for the Rays, with Chirinos making his first career start.
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