The Yankees’ ongoing beef with the Rays did not retire with CC Sabathia’s final walk from a big league mound.
With tempers hot about a handful of high and tight pitches on Saturday, prompting the ejections of manager Aaron Boone and hitting coach Marcus Thames, the Bombers’ bats cooled in a 5-3 loss to the Rays in the nightcap of a seven-inning doubleheader at Tropicana Field.
“It was more just about the history,” Aaron Judge said, nodding to a tense September 2018 contest between the clubs. “You don't usually forget stuff like that. Then to continue to throw up and in, that's tough. We've got a lot of big hitters up there and we know they're going to throw in, but to miss that far up and in, you're going to get a little barking from the dugout.”
Thanks in part to Austin Meadows’ go-ahead, two-run single, the Yankees settled for a split of the twin bill. In the first game, Gerrit Cole struck out 10 over 4 2/3 innings while Judge, Mike Ford and Giancarlo Stanton all homered, powering the Yankees’ 8-4 victory. Stanton exited the second game with a tight left hamstring that could send him to the injured list.
In the September 2018 contest that Judge referenced, Sabathia was irked when the Rays’ Andrew Kittredge threw a fastball over Austin Romine’s head after an earlier hit batsman. Sabathia responded by plunking Jesús Sucre, earning an ejection from home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza and offering some choice words to the Tampa Bay bench that soon appeared on T-shirts.
“He misinterpreted what Marcus said,” said Boone, who has been ejected 10 times since taking over as the Yanks’ manager in 2018. “We’ll just leave it at that. He should not have been thrown out of the game.”
Diego Castillo dusted Urshela and LeMahieu in the third inning on Saturday, and Kittredge made LeMahieu stumble in the fifth. Judge said that the Rays have not been the only team to attempt moving the Yankees’ feet this season.
“We have a lot of big power hitters that can drive the baseball, so a lot of teams are really trying to back us off the plate,” Judge said. “We know that it’s something they've done for years now. They want to try to come in and back us off. It's something we’ve got to deal with, but I know our pitchers are there to protect us.”
Michael King will remember his first Major League start for the nine consecutive batters that he retired between the first and fourth innings, but the right-hander -- lauded for his control -- also lamented the uncharacteristically spotty command that led to five walks and three earned runs.
King struggled in a 32-pitch first inning that included a bases-loaded free pass to Yoshi Tsutsugo, then settled in until he issued two-out walks to Willy Adames and Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth. Both runs scored on Meadows’ two-run single off reliever Luis Avilán.
“I felt like I was just nibbling,” King said. “I was getting down 1-0 to everybody, which obviously is not a good recipe for success. I'm happy to get my first start; that was one of the goals going into this season. But it's kind of one of those I’ve got to flush. The fastball command wasn't there, and that's probably the strongest part of my whole baseball career.”
New York pitchers walked nine men in the contest overall, including two by right-hander Albert Abreu, who allowed two runs over 1 1/3 innings in his Major League debut.
Too little, too late
Luke Voit’s fourth-inning RBI single off Fairbanks accounted for the Yankees’ only run until the seventh inning, when the club attempted to rally.
Urshela, Erik Kratz and LeMahieu notched three straight two-out hits off Jalen Beeks, producing two runs, but Nick Anderson induced Judge to fly to deep center field for the final out.
“I was just underneath it a little bit,” Judge said. “He's got a good fastball that really plays up in the zone. I wasn’t able to get on top of it and score DJ there.”