Rays have shown more life than Yankees

As the non-waiver trade deadline looms, the Yankees are trying to let their front office know what kind of team they are, but a recent push into possible contender status has encountered a detour in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The last-place, going-nowhere Rays have stung the Yankees the past two nights at Tropicana Field to win a series the Bombers considered vital to determine whether they would be buyers or sellers by Monday’s trade deadline.

This series in microcosm was detailed in the seventh inning. Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier caught the Yankees napping and essentially stole a run. His trek around the bases made it appear that the game was more important to Tampa Bay despite it being 20 games under .500.

What seemed to be a one-out single by Kiermaier became a double when he took advantage of a flat-footed Carlos Beltran in right field and an out-of-position shortstop Didi Gregorius around the bag at second. Continuing to hustle, Kiermaier stole third off reliever Anthony Swarzak, who paid scant attention to the runner and not giving catcher Austin Romine a chance to throw Kiermaier out.

Steven Souza Jr. then lined a single to left-center to send in Kiermaier and push the Rays’ lead to 4-2. Tim Beckham made it 6-2 by crushing a ball over the center field wall, Tampa Bay’s third home run of the game and fifth of the series that ends Sunday afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi, who lost for the first time since July 1, gave up only three hits, but two of them were home runs. Brad Miller, who tripled and doubled Friday night, turned around a 99-mph heater from Eovaldi in the first inning.

After Brett Gardner gave the Yankees the lead in the third with a two-run home run off lefthander Drew Smyly, Eovaldi gave it right back when .169-hitting catcher Curt Casali homered off a hanging slider following a leadoff single by Beckham.

Smyly was just as stingy as Eovaldi. The lefthander gave up four hits over six innings and ended a personal seven-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 12 starts since May 16.

With a lefty starting against the Yankees, manager Joe Girardi put Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup for the first time in eight days and got nothing in return. A-Rod struck out in all four of his plate appearances.

Rodriguez’s batting average is down to .206. His wilting offense is not something just of recent vintage, either. Over the past calendar year since August 2015, A-Rod in 397 at-bats has hit .199 with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 54 RBI and 123 strikeouts.

On the plus side for the Yanks, Chase Headley had two hits, including his 10th home run, a solo shot in the eighth off Matt Andriese, and Adam Warren retired the three batters he faced in the eighth, which may have been an inning too late to bring him into the game.

Kiermaier continued to torture the Yankees in the eighth with a dazzling, leaping catch high atop the center field fence to rob Romine of a potential extra-base hit right after the Headley homer.

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