At some point the Yankees had to miss the firepower provided by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu.
With that trio on the injured list, Masahiro Tanaka absorbed a beating and Rays lefty Blake Snell provided far too many hills for the Yankees to climb on the way to a 6-3 loss at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. It was the Yankees’ first loss at the Stadium this season.
The defeat stopped a six-game Yankees (16-7) winning streak and shaved their AL East lead over the second-place Rays (15-9) to 1 ½ games.
Matched against Tanaka for the second time this season, Snell was the better pitcher and improved to 2-0. In five innings, Snell allowed three runs on home runs by Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit. Tanaka (0-1) didn’t get out of the fifth and surrendered six runs (five earned) and eight hits (two homers).
Trailing 6-3 in the seventh, Mike Tauchman walked and Clint Frazier singled to start the inning. Miguel Andujar’s grounder to the right side advanced the runners and Mike Ford getting hit by a pitch from Diego Castillo loaded the bases for Voit.
He looked at a 3-2 pitch for the second out and Castillo snuffed the scoring threat out by retiring Gio Urshela on a routine grounder to third baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo.
When the Rays and Yankees met in St. Petersburg earlier this month they chirped at each other. The Yankees didn’t appreciate the Rays pitchers working up and in to their hitters and the Rays chirped back.
Asked if he thought the chirping would surface during this three-game series, Aaron Boone didn’t believe it would.
“No, no. I think it is obviously two very good teams that have a lot of respect for the talent on both sides,” Boone said. “Sometimes when you are playing for a lot and there is two competitive, high-level teams, occasionally it spills over but the respect for both sides going both ways is very high.’’
With the Yankees away from Tropicana Field, the home of catwalks, rings up near the roof, a grey ceiling and artificial turf, the Yankees were expected to do better based on the math.
The Yankees were 37-13 in their last 50 games against the Rays in The Bronx entering the game. Conversely, they have had one winning season at The Trop in the last 11 years.
Austin Meadows’ leadoff homer in the fifth upped the Rays’ lead to 6-1 and was the end of Tanaka’s evening.
With Gleyber Torres up in the eighth and the Yankees trailing by three runs, the Rays moved Yoshitomo Tsutsugo from third to left field. With four outfielders and second baseman Joe Wendle at third, Nick Anderson struck out Torres.
The bottom of the Rays order started a four-run rally in the third inning against Tanaka and helped the visitors add a fifth run in the following frame.
Kevin Kiermaier’s triple that rattled around the right-field corner was followed by Michael Perez, the No. 9 hitter, singling to center for the game’s initial run. Meadows singled and Brandon Lowe hit a 1-0 fastball from Tanaka over the center-field fence to give the visitors a 4-0 cushion.
Willy Adames’ one-out single and Kiermaier’s two-out double put runners at second and third for Perez, who was batting .174. Tanaka eventually struck Perez out but not before Sanchez was charged with a passed ball that scored Adames and made it 5-0.
It was Sanchez’s fifth passed ball of the season and his second in his last two games behind the plate.