The Yankees scored a total of five runs during their three-game visit to St. Petersburg this week, yet they took to the friendly skies with their first series victory at Tropicana Field since May 2019. For that, as DJ LeMahieu said, they owe their starting pitchers a debt of gratitude.
After taking the first two games of the series behind electric performances from Jordan Montgomery and Gerrit Cole, the bats went quiet behind Jameson Taillon in a 9-1 loss to the Rays on Thursday evening. Yet LeMahieu remained encouraged by the club’s recent play, with 14 wins in their last 20 games.
“Thankfully, we had great pitching,” LeMahieu said. “We didn’t swing it great; we swung it just enough to win the series. Today, we didn’t do anything too well, but we’re in a good place and ready to move on to Baltimore.”
New York saw its four-game winning streak snapped as the offense was stifled by 41-year-old left-hander Rich Hill, who dotted his fastball and curveball to blank the Bombers over 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball.
Hill, who pitched briefly for the Yankees in 2014, extended his scoreless innings streak to 17 2/3 innings. Now the oldest active player in the Majors following Albert Pujols’ release, Hill joined Cy Young and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to strike out nine against the Yankees at age 41 or older.
“With his delivery, there’s some deception there,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Especially after he does all that soft stuff, his four-seam plays up a little bit. He kept us off balance all night and we just weren’t able to mount enough against him.”
“I’d say it's back and forth,” designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton said. “We’re grinding, we're putting together some good at-bats, some good innings. I think we’ve got to do that through all nine innings and not in spurts. That’d get us some more wins.”
Asked to evaluate his evening, Taillon said that he came away encouraged by a season-high nine strikeouts, yet the Rays burned him in a couple of key spots.
Yandy Díaz laced a two-run single off a hanging breaking ball in the first inning and Austin Meadows slugged a two-run homer off a third-inning changeup from Taillon, who permitted four runs and six hits over 4 2/3 innings.
“To be able to get nine strikeouts, that tells me something was working,” Taillon said. “I got a lot of swings and misses on the fastball up. I thought that pitch was pretty good tonight, especially as I got rolling. The hits in big situations tell you that I didn’t make the right pitch at the right time.”
“I was ready to go,” Taillon said. “We were still able to get [pitching coach] Matt Blake on the phone; we FaceTimed him in. With modern technology, there’s a way to get everyone involved. It’s been a little different around here the past few days, but we were still able to take two out of three.”
Michael King has enjoyed an excellent run out of the bullpen this season, though his 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak was snapped in the loss. Randy Arozarena cracked a three-run homer off King, who tossed 48 pitches over 2 1/3 frames.
“We have a few guys that are still scuffling to really get it going,” Boone said. “We’re usually really strong when everyone’s grinding you down a little bit. This is always a tough place to score runs and a team that’s very good at the run prevention game. Hopefully, we can start picking it up tomorrow.”