NEW YORK -- Although the Yankees have drawn much attention for their strong bullpen at the beginning of the season and for the number of home runs they hit game after game, much of the team's success in 2018 has been largely dependent on the quality of outings it receives from its starting pitching.
The Yankees hold a Major League-best 47-6 record when their starter tosses at least six innings, but in place of an injured Carsten Sabathia, Luis Cessa was unable to provide the team the length it needed for a victory, as New York fell to Tampa Bay, 6-1, on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. After the game, Cessa was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with the Yankees recalling right-hander Tommy Kahnle.
"I thought just too many mistakes on the plate with all his pitches," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "They were making hard contact on him most of the night with the fastball and secondary stuff. I thought he pounded the zone for the most part, but it seemed like, having not watched it back yet, a lot of pitches in the center with both his fastball and his secondary."
Boone had said earlier in the week that the team called on Cessa to fill the opening in the rotation due to his experience in the spot-start role over the past three years. Despite that experience, Cessa lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits, including a home run to Mallex Smith in the fourth. In his previous outing, Cessa worked 3 2/3 frames in relief in Boston, where he posted the same numbers, permitting five runs on seven hits.
"With CC going down and having to skip him, obviously we had to plug somebody in," Boone said. "We talk about a lot of guys, and a lot of times it comes down to where guys fall in their rotation when you're dipping into the system a little bit. So a lot of guys continue to be in that mix, continue to be in that conversation. There's roster situations that you deal with, so there's a lot that goes into it. And Cessa's shown flashes up here of having success and he's certainly done that [in the Minors] to earn these opportunities."
Brandon Lowe got the Rays on the board in the second inning with his first Major League hit and RBI on a single to left. In the third, a run scored on a fielder's choice before Kevin Kiermaier knocked in another run to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead. Smith's two-run homer prompted Cessa's evening to come to an early end.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Cessa said of not being able to capitalize on his opportunity. "I tried to do my best and my pitches were good. I watched the video after the game and I executed really good pitches, but they hit it and good for them. They found the holes a couple times. I'm just really frustrated."
Cessa has now made four starts for the Yankees this year, losing the three that lasted fewer than six innings. One of the options that the Yankees considered for Wednesday's start was Sonny Gray, who allowed one run -- Lowe's second RBI single -- in 3 1/3 innings in relief.
Miguel Andujar was responsible for the Yankees' lone run of the evening, blasting his 19th home run of the year off Rays starter Jake Faria -- who allowed one run on three hits over 3 1/3 innings -- in the bottom of the second to tie the game at 1. New York left 10 runners on base and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"I mean, any time you fall behind early, it can be frustrating and deflating, and we just weren't able to climb back in it tonight," Brett Gardner said. "We got a few guys on base, but for the most part, just weren't able to string together good at-bats. Just kind of a disappointing game for us, to be honest."
With his double in the sixth, Andujar became one of six players in history to have 13 games with at least two extra-base hits within their first 114 career games, joining Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Frederick, Ted Williams, Hal Trosky and Cody Bellinger.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Yankees had a chance to put some runs on the board in the fourth inning with the bases loaded and one out, but Chaz Roe struck out Austin Romine to get the second out of the inning, bringing Ronald Torreyes to the plate. Torreyes hit a slow ground ball to third baseman Matt Duffy that was originally ruled an RBI infield single after Torreyes had apparently beaten out the throw, but the Rays challenged the call. After a replay review, the call was overturned, taking a run off the scoreboard for the Yankees.
Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound in Thursday's 1:05 p.m. ET series finale against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka is looking to bounce back from a rough start against the Rangers on Friday, when he allowed six earned runs in five innings. Prior to that outing, he had pitched to a 1.78 ERA over his previous six starts. Tanaka has gone 8-2 with a 3.62 ERA in 12 career starts against Tampa Bay. Left-hander Blake Snell will get the ball for the Rays.