Yanks befuddled by Rays, extending funk

May 31st, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Yankees reached the one-third milepost of their season on Monday, trudging into their Zoom Room to express confidence that we’ll once again see them slug homers, deliver timely hits and create high-stress innings for opponents -- in short, everything that the Rays are doing right now.

Perhaps the Rays are an unfair benchmark, considering their red-hot streak of 16 wins in 17 games, yet that’s exactly who the Yankees must catch in the American League East. 's seventh-inning home run comprised most of the production as they fell for the sixth time in seven games, dealt a 3-1 defeat in the Bronx.

“We understand we’re going through a tough time as a team,” Andújar said. “It’s one of those things you can go through during the season. The key thing is, I believe in my teammates. I know we’re going to get out of it.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone also continues to strike a positive note, noting that he thinks the team’s at-bats showed incremental improvement after a three-game sweep by the last-place Tigers in Detroit, but he said that the offense is “still not where we expect it to be.”

The Yanks went hitless in two chances with runners in scoring position on Monday and are 4-for-33 in those situations over their last seven games, tallying a total of 13 runs over that span.

“We want you to feel like it was heavy, it was difficult, it was a lot to get through us,” Boone said. “That hasn't been the case enough, and that's what we’ve got to get back to as a group.”

As disheartening as the lost Motown weekend was, Boone mentioned that a staffer knocked on his office door on Monday morning, helpfully pointing out that the Yankees had posted a winning record for the month of May. The club’s 17-11 mark for the month, powered largely by exceptional starting pitching, helped it absorb some of a rough April.

Yet the Yankees’ .537 winning percentage puts them on pace for an 87-win season, which probably would spell a dark October. That increases the importance of a stronger showing throughout the rest of this “rivalry week,” when the Rays and Red Sox will trade off occupying Yankee Stadium’s visitors’ dugout.

“We know that we’re playing very good teams,” said third baseman . “But we’ve got a pretty good team. We always stay positive; we’re always fighting every game. Today was a new day, and we fought all day long. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get that win.”

Pitching from behind

drew a tough assignment, as the Rays knocked the right-hander for three runs over five innings -- an outburst that seemed twice as large given the Yanks’ offensive woes.

“It’d be nice to pitch with a lead, but at the same time, that’s how it’s going right now,” Taillon said. “It’s my job to go out there and put up zeroes, and I put us in a little bit of a hole.”

Tampa Bay received a sharp effort from 41-year-old left-hander Rich Hill, who put the finishing touches on a sensational May (3-1, 0.78 ERA) by limiting New York to three hits over five scoreless innings. Hill was extremely efficient, needing only 56 pitches.

“We hit the ball very well a couple of times,” Urshela said. “It was bad luck, I think.”

Manuel Margot stroked a run-scoring double in the third inning, and Austin Meadows reached the short porch in right field for a 334-foot solo homer, a drive that Statcast said would not have left any other park in the Majors. Randy Arozarena added a two-out RBI single in the fifth.

“I’m confident we’ll pull through,” Taillon said. “But right now with how it’s going, I needed to definitely put up a few more zeroes.”

Rays-ed up

's ninth-inning double went to waste, as Andújar struck out against former Yankees farmhand J.P. Feyereisen. That gave the Yankees 20 losses in their last 27 games against Tampa Bay since September 2019, including last year’s American League Division Series.

“They’re doing a lot of little things right now to allow them to win games, as well as obviously continuing to pitch well,” Boone said.

The rivalry between the Rays and Yankees has grown heated over the past several seasons, in part because now-retired left-hander CC Sabathia decided to make them a personal nemesis, but the Bronx isn’t as intimidating to Tampa Bay as it once was. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Rays are 9-1 at Yankee Stadium, where all other visitors are 12-36 (.250).

“I think they have their way to play baseball; we have our way to play baseball,” Andújar said. “This is part of the game. We know we can go through this. We’ve got to focus and come back strong. There’s another game tomorrow.”