One of those losses that hurts a bit more
All losses hurts, especially those in a pennant race. Yet some have more of a sting than others. Such a loss occurred to the Yankees Saturday, a 3-2 setback to Tampa Bay that combined with Toronto’s 5-1 victory over Baltimore pushed them back to 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East.
The frustration showed in the way Didi Gregorius slammed down his bat after he made the third out of the eighth inning on a vicious line drive caught by Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe that left the bases loaded.
The Yankees, trailing by a run, seemed to have a game-turning rally in place against Tampa Bay righthander Alex Colome, who was hit hard enough throughout the eighth that he got gun shy and loss sight of the plate.
Even the two outs that began the inning were well struck, a hard grounder up the middle by Alex Rodriguez into an over-shift and a smoking liner to first baseman James Loney by Carlos Beltran. Chase Headley worked the count to 3-2 before drilling a single to center. Greg Bird followed with a rope to left for another single.
Colome wanted no part of Brian McCann, pinch hitting for John Ryan Murphy, and walked him on five pitches to fill the bags. Now there was no place to put Gregorius, but Colome fell behind 2-0 before getting a called strike on an automatic take by the Yanks shortstop.
It would have been a good time for Gregorius to make up some of the discrepancy in his home-and-away splits. He had doubled in a run back in the fifth off starter Mike Moore and eventually came around to score the Yankees’ second run on two infield outs. Didi had a good cut at the 2-1 pitch, but the lazar of a liner hit leather.
Manager Joe Girardi was not taken aback by Gregorius’ act of frustration. In fact, the skipper approved it. Showing emotion in that circumstance was understandable and reflected frustration all around by Yankees hitters whose return from a rambunctious trip has been calmed by two games of limited production. The Yanks won Friday night primarily because three of their four hits were home runs. They totaled only five hits Saturday and were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. They had no such at-bats Friday night.
Gregorius was a big part of the Yankees’ 5-1 trip through Atlanta and Boston as he hit .583 with seven runs, one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. That raised his road record this year to .317 with eight doubles, one triple, three home runs and 26 RBI. At Yankee Stadium, the picture has not been so rosy as Gregorius has been a .222 hitter with 10 doubles, five home runs and 19 RBI.
It is not the time for bats to turn cold. In Moore, the Yankees were facing a pitcher who has struggled since returning from Tommy John surgery (8.04 ERA) and a Rays lineup that lost slugger Evan Longoria in the fifth inning with a hand injury from being hit with a pitch. In addition, the Yankees must contend in Sunday’s series finale with righthander Chris Archer, who is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in eight career starts against them.
Nathan Eovaldi lost for the first time in 14 starts since June 16 and had a nine-game winning streak end. He gave up three runs on a couple of two-out hits — singles by Kevin Kiermaier for one run in the second and by Astrubal Cabrera for two runs in the third. The righthander walked four batters, hit one and struck out seven in losing for the first time this year in 13 starts this year at the Stadium where he is now 5-1.
Well, one streak ended Saturday, so perhaps one can end again Sunday.