ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This is what it sounds like when bats die.
It was inevitable at some point in a six-month season the Yankees’ bats would go limp. What wasn’t expected was that happening against the Rays.
Yet for the second straight game, in which the Rays used a parade of relievers instead of opening the game with a traditional starting pitcher, the Yankees’ offense was non-existent and was the major culprit in a 4-0 loss Saturday witnessed by 29,831 at Tropicana Field.
Having dropped the first two of a three-game series, the Yankees have lost a series for the first time since the Rangers copped two of three from them in Texas from May 21-23. That also was the last time the Yankees lost two straight (May 22-23). At least in the third-game loss to the Rangers, the Yankees scored 10 runs.
On Friday night, six Rays relievers held the Yankees to a run and five hits. On Saturday, the Yankees never dented home plate and collected four hits off five pitchers. They also fell to 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the series after going 1-for-8 Saturday.
The biggest sign of the frustration from the Yankees surfaced in the eighth inning, when after striking out to end the frame, Brett Gardner, who finished 0-for-4, tossed his bat and helmet to the ground.
Sonny Gray gave up a run in the first and two in the second to put the Yankees in an early hole they couldn’t hit their way out of. Yet, from the final out of the second inning until Willy Adames’ two-out, opposite-field homer that he tucked inside the right-field foul pole in the seventh, Gray retired 15 straight batters.
In 6 ²/₃ innings, Gray gave up four runs and six hits, walked one and struck out seven. Gray’s first loss since May 26 evened his record at 5-5.
The Yankees entered the game batting a putrid .148 (8-for-54) without a homer with runners in scoring position and the slump continued in the second and third innings despite each frame opening with doubles.
With the Yankees trailing 1-0 in the second, Giancarlo Stanton squeezed a double inside the right-field foul line leading off. But right-hander Wilmer Font retired Aaron Hicks on a fly to center, struck out Greg Bird and stranded Stanton by getting Miguel Andujar on a grounder to the right side.
When Austin Romine started the third, the Yankees were trailing 3-0. He doubled to center, but like Stanton an inning earlier, Romine never moved off second base. Neil Walker lofted a routine fly to left for the first out, Gardner was denied a hit by a lunging catch by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, and Judge grounded out to third.
From the final out of the second inning until the end of the sixth, Gray retired 13 straight Rays, but the one run he gave up in the first and the two in the second loomed large due to the Yankees’ troubles hitting in the clutch.
Kiermaier started the home first with a single to right and scored from first on Jake Bauers’ opposite-field double to left. Bauers made third when Didi Gregorius’ relay throw home went over Romine’s head. With the infield in, Gray got Ramos on a grounder to the right side and ended the inning on Joey Wendle’s pop to Gregorius.
C.J. Cron started the second with a double and scored on Daniel Robertson’s double. Robertson moved to third on Mallex Smith’s bunt and scored on Adames’ single to left. A two-out walk to Matt Duffy didn’t hurt when Gray retired Bauers.
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