Yankees are out of excuses for Rays’ dominance: Sherman

Wanting to honor Aaron Boone’s unsinkable ability to find the half-full elements even on yet another Yankees half-empty day against the Rays, let us point out: That Justin Wilson came off the

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Wanting to honor Aaron Boone’s unsinkable ability to find the half-full elements even on yet another Yankees half-empty day against the Rays, let us point out:

That Justin Wilson came off the injured list to strike out two in a scoreless inning.

That Aaron Judge returned from Boone’s “Maybe he’s hurt, maybe he’s not, who can say” status to crunch the hardest-hit ball of Saturday’s game, a 112.9 mph single.

That Gio Urshela missed only one game due to an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine and made a terrific rolling play at third base (OK, he also made an error).

This also is offered to eliminate an excuse. You may recall last year, as the Yankees were dominated by the Rays in both the regular season and Division Series, they bemoaned the absences of Tommy Kahnle, James Paxton and Luis Severino.

It was a particularly weak alibi. Because the Yankees have three times the Rays’ payroll to cover up problems. But also because Tampa Bay was even more devastated by injuries in 2020, especially to its pitching — and won the AL East and AL pennant anyway.

Nothing has changed in 2021. The Rays have nine players on the IL, including seven pitchers. Plus they lost two of their best starters — Charlie Morton to free agency and Blake Snell to a trade — in the offseason. They were hoping Chris Archer, in a return to the franchise, would help. But Archer left his first 2021 start with one out in the third Saturday, due to a lateral forearm strain.

Nevertheless, despite a restored lineup, the Yankees never scored. Maybe soon they can whine about not having Luke Voit.

“Obviously as a group we have to get it going,” Boone said.

Jay Bruce and the Yankees lineup went quietly on Saturday.
Getty Images

The Rays reached into their assembly line of pitching to win. Andrew Kittredge, Jeffrey Springs, Ryan Thompson, Cody Reed and Chris Mazza (yes, Mets, fans, that Chris Mazza) followed Archer with 6 ²/₃ shutout innings.

The final score was 4-0. Over the first two games of this series, the Rays are crushing the Yankees, 14-5. Tampa Bay has beaten the Yankees in 13 of 17 games since the outset of last year, including the 2020 Division Series. Head-to-head, the Rays are the better team. They do not have bigger names or huger salaries, but they are a better team, with a strong mindset to overcome any loss or absence of resources.

“It is silly to answer that question right now,” Boone responded when asked if his club is better than the Rays. “We have to go out and prove it.”

Tampa Bay is superior at run prevention — pitching plus defense. But the Rays’ lineup might be making inroads, too, with the ability to mix and match parts to platoon advantages, the rising Randy Arozarena, the revived Austin Meadows and the top prospect in the game, Wander Franco, waiting for a call.

The Yankees lineup familiarly remained hit-or-miss. Keep them in the park, keep them off the board, keep them out of the win column. The Yankees have failed to homer in three games, including Saturday’s, this year, and are 0-3 with four total runs in those games. On Saturday they were hitless in nine at-bats with men on base and did not get a hit over the final four innings.

“We have to hit when we get guys on base,” Brett Gardner said. “We have to do what the situation calls for and we haven’t done a good job of that so far.”

The outages are throughout the lineup. Clint Frazier was benched Saturday. Boone indicated Jay Bruce would sit Sunday. Urshela and Gleyber Torres have had limited impact. Giancarlo Stanton continues to intersperse a “wow” exit velocity with swaths of empty at-bats.

Boone also was critical of the team defense — “It’s got to be better.” Through a 3-5 start, the only unit that has performed well is the bullpen. But multiple short starts by Corey Kluber and Domingo German are threatening to overtax the relief crew. German, in fact, was sent to the Alternate Site after this outing Saturday because the Yankees need an extra arm now.

German, who allowed four runs in four innings Saturday, has swing-and-miss stuff. He also has hit-it-over-the-fence results. Meadows and Arozarena took him deep. That is four homers in seven innings this year and 50 in 968 at-bats for his career, or one every 19.36 at-bats — roughly the frequency that Chipper Jones (19.2) hit them in his Hall of Fame career.

German is part of the Yankees’ healthy pitching staff, made more so by Wilson’s return. The team that has perennially struggled with injuries is comparatively whole so far. The pain has not been physical through an uninspiring start. The pain is from how the Yankees are playing.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Joel Sherman

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