Rays tripped up in extra innings of finale

April 11th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- For nine innings, the Rays and Yankees played the kind of tense back-and-forth game we’ve come to expect from the two American League East rivals -- complete with lead changes, dramatic moments and contentious pitches thrown up and in. When the game moved to extras, though, things went awry for Tampa Bay.

The Yankees put up four runs in the 10th inning of Sunday’s series finale, avoiding a weekend sweep by dealing the Rays an 8-4 loss at Tropicana Field. It was the second time in the last five games Tampa Bay has lost when leading after seven innings, two more losses of that kind than the club experienced in its previous 119 games.

The 10th inning began with Aaron Hicks taking first base after being grazed in the leg by a bouncing slider from reliever . That put runners on first and second, and Mike Tauchman’s sacrifice bunt pushed them both into scoring position. The Rays forced out a run at the plate on a Gleyber Torres grounder, but Rougned Odor put the Yankees ahead with a bloop single that landed in front of center fielder .

“I thought he made a really good 3-2 pitch to Odor, a cutter up and at his hands,” catcher said. “I think once that run crosses, sometimes it’s tough to stop the bleeding after that.”

Gary Sánchez, the next batter, brought home another run with a single up the middle. Then Gio Urshela slapped a single to right field, where the ball bounced over , allowing two more runs to score. The Rays went down in order in the 10th, falling to the Yankees for just the fifth time in their last 20 meetings dating back to the start of September 2019.

“It snowballed on us a little bit, it did,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We played a pretty good ball game up until then.”

Indeed, there was a lot for the Rays to like early on. Right-hander worked two perfect innings in his long-awaited Major League debut, and Tampa Bay held a 4-3 lead after three innings thanks to a pair of two-run shots from (his second of the season) and (his second in as many days) off New York lefty Jordan Montgomery. After a shaky first inning, right-hander settled into a groove in his first appearance as a bulk-innings pitcher and retired the final nine Yankees he faced in order.

That would’ve been enough to leave the two pitches from Montgomery that hit as just a frustrating footnote. But the Rays could not help but notice that the Yankees hit one batter per game this weekend -- Zunino on Friday, on Saturday and Meadows twice on Sunday -- reigniting the tension that’s been boiling between the clubs for years, most notably last season.

“Look, it's unfortunate,” Cash said. “Do I personally think the guy was trying to hit him? I do not. But this continues to roll over.”

Meadows was hit on the right shoulder in the first inning and near his left wrist in the fifth inning. Warnings were issued to both sides after the first plunking, which drew the ire of Tampa Bay’s dugout. But umpires determined that the second HBP was not intentional and took no action. The Rays agreed that the second pitch was not intentional, just a fastball that ran in on Meadows’ hands, but the issue of being pitched high and tight was clearly on their minds afterward.

“I mean, it happens almost basically every series with them,” Meadows said. “And it's something that we've got to stop, because being a hitter and having that in the back of your mind is not a good feeling.”

For all their frustrations, the Rays held a lead when Cash turned to the bullpen in the seventh inning. took over for and got them out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by forcing DJ LeMahieu to ground into an inning-ending double play. But Tampa Bay’s one-run lead wouldn’t last.

Sent back out to pitch the eighth, Thompson walked Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton before allowing a game-tying single to Gleyber Torres. entered to finish the eighth and kept the game tied in a wild ninth, but the Rays’ uncharacteristic inability to hold a lead in the late innings ultimately sent the game to extras.

One could point to the Rays’ recent injuries. Last year, those innings might have gone to or before handing the ball to Castillo, but both are on the shelf with injuries. For his part, Cash pointed to the four free passes in the seventh and eighth -- three walks and a replay-reviewed Sánchez HBP -- as the bigger issue.

“You're just not going to keep a team like that quiet [by] giving them the free passes. We've got to do a better job than that,” Cash said. “We felt like we had the right guys and the [right] matchups. It just didn't go in our favor today.”