The Yankees’ scoreless streak is over. Their losing skid is not.
For a team that has struggled to score one run lately, never mind multiple, facing a three-run deficit in the first inning Tuesday seemed insurmountable. It proved to be just that.
The Yankees pushed across a run for the first time in 22 innings, but it was hardly enough as they fell to the Rays 3-1 in The Bronx.
With the Yankees’ 11th loss in their last 13 games, the second-place Rays (62-53) climbed nine games behind them in the AL East. It marks the Yankees’ smallest lead atop the division since June 15.
“Having a little bit of a cushion helps, but that cushion can dwindle quick,” Aaron Judge said. “So we gotta stay on top of it. Guys are putting the work in. Guys are showing up and doing their thing. So now it’s just about going out there on the field and performing.”
The Yankees (72-45) scattered only four hits on Tuesday night against left-hander Jeffrey Springs and the Rays bullpen, and have now scored just nine runs over their last seven games (68 innings).
As they continue to play without key bats (the injured DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton and Matt Carpenter), the Yankees have been unable to jump-start their offense. Now their division lead is finally back to single digits because of it.
“As far as the [division] lead and the pressing, welcome to Major League Baseball and playing in the pennant race,” manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s pressure with it.”
After giving up a three-run homer in the first inning, Nestor Cortes rebounded to deliver seven strong innings. But the Yankees have given their pitchers little margin for error lately and they were unable to mount a comeback on Tuesday.
Coming off back-to-back shutout losses, the Yankees finally got off the schneid in the fifth inning, snapping a streak of 22 straight scoreless innings. Andrew Benintendi drilled a one-out triple off the wall in right-center field and then came around to score on Miguel Andujar’s chopper to third base that Yandy Diaz could not handle. It cut the Rays’ lead to 3-1.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa came up next and worked a 10-pitch walk, giving hope that the Yankees had a bigger rally cooking. But Marwin Gonzalez poured cold water on that when Springs got him to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Yankees threatened for more in the seventh inning, but came up empty. Josh Donaldson led off with a single and moved to second on a groundout by Jose Trevino. Benintendi came up next and sent a charge into the crowd with a high fly ball to right field, but it landed in the glove of Randy Arozarena on the warning track. Miguel Andujar then struck out to end the chance.
Judge had another chance to add to his MVP case in the eighth inning, when he came to the plate with two outs and Gleyber Torres on first base. But the Rays brought in Jason Adam, who got Judge to ground out.
“Still just can’t break through with that big one,” Boone said.
The Yankees then went quietly in the ninth inning, leading to a smattering of boos after the final out.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Yankees as Cortes gave up a pair of line-drive singles to the first two batters he faced before Arozarena crushed a one-out home run to left field that put the Rays up 3-0.
Cortes settled in from there, though, to cruise through the seventh inning. He retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced, the only exceptions coming on a Donaldson fielding error in the fourth inning and a Harold Ramirez single in the sixth inning that got erased on a caught stealing.