TAMPA — The Yankees began their long road trip with a series loss, as the team lost to the Rays, 7-4, Sunday at Tropicana Field.
The Yankees, who have won only one series since the start of July, blew a 4-2 lead with two outs in the sixth inning when an erratic Ian Hamilton allowed a single and hit a batter before Randy Arozarena catches a hit on the field. Harold Ramírez then pushed one just over the head of Gleyber Torres, who didn’t get the best read on the tying two-point blooper.
“I think if Gleyber has a better read of it, then he’ll open up and give himself a better chance,” Aaron Boone said.
Brandon Lowe then put the Rays ahead with his own two-run single against Wandy Peralta. Hamilton was charged with the four runs scored in the sixth.
“It was tough, but I try to make throws,” Hamilton said. “They were on them.”
The Yankees had already overcome a difficult setting, as a first-inning stolen base attempt from Arozarena resulted in errant pitches from Kyle Higashioka and Harrison Bader. That final shot was made by Oswald Peraza and Carlos Rodón near third base and sent Arozarena home. Lowe followed that up by immediately hitting a solo home run off The Trop’s Stingray tank into right center field.
Rodón proceeded to load the bases, but he escaped the grueling round with no more damage.
The southpaw, working on the pitch count in his second start with a hamstring injury, went 4.2 innings while totaling four hits, two earned runs, two walks and seven strikeouts. Rodón, who now has a 5.97 ERA this season, threw 84 shots.
“It could have been the best four-inning streak we’ve seen from him, where it all came clean with the fastball, with the slider,” Boone said, referring to Rodón’s performance after the first inning. “He was probably a little tired there at the end walking with the two left-handers. This is obviously not what we wanted. He was at his throw limit.
The Yankees scored their first runs in the third inning when Higashioka and DJ LeMahieu hit solo homers. Anthony Volpe then added a two-run shot in the fourth inning.
Zach Littell returned all the Yankees dingers. The Rays went six innings while totaling four hits, four earned runs, one walk, four strikeouts and 92 pitches.
Things escalated in the eighth when Albert Abreu made Arozarena the fourth ray in the game only to be hit by a pitch. Arozarena immediately got angry and exchanged words with the pitcher as the benches cleared.
Both teams were cautioned, but another bench clearance came moments later after Arozarena slipped second and third. The second steal prompted another interaction with Abreu as both teams raced towards midfield.
Lowe then brought Arozarena home, without incident, on a brace. After the game, the Yankees seemed to understand why tensions were boiling over, as they hit five Rays in the series and 12 this year. This latest figure includes Abreu hitting Arozarena earlier this season.
The Rays have hit the Yankees twice this year, including once on Sunday.
“Right after I hit him, I try to explain to him that I’m not trying to hit him,” Abreu said. “That’s not what I’m trying to do there. He said, “This is the second time you’ve hit me!” But the reality is that I’m a shot putter, and at that point I’m trying to execute my shot. What I’m trying to create is a weak contact. That’s what I’m looking for right now. So I absolutely do not try to hit him. I’m just trying to execute my pitch and get a soft touch.
Added Boone, who had a chat with Rays manager Kevin Cash: “It definitely wasn’t intentional, but I understand that when our guys get hit unintentionally, I don’t like it either. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens in the game. Today was a bit overflowing.
Arozarena said he believed the pitch hit was intentional, according to Bally Sports Florida’s Tricia Whitaker.
As for the second clearance from the bench, Abreu wasn’t exactly sure what Arozarena had told him. But the reliever thought he was making quite a fuss by stealing two bases.
“I didn’t really understand what he was saying when he got to the third goal, but I can see he’s still restless,” Abreu said. “He takes it very personally and I try to explain to him, ‘I’m not trying to hit you there.’ It was like he was trying to make fun of the situation or the fact that he stole two bases, I don’t know. Just the heat of the action there.
Cooler heads prevailed — no punches were thrown — and the Yankees were mostly tied to irritating the Rays, though they insisted it was misplaced.
Hamilton, however, issued a bigger challenge after hitting two batters himself, including one to the head with a 95mph heat-up.
“I understand,” Hamilton said, “but at the same time if they want to come here they can come here. I wish we had another game against them.
Hamilton added “my fault for starting this” regarding a pitch that hit Isaac Paredes in his helmet. Paredes was fine after the game, by Whitaker.
“That’s really not what I want to see happen,” Higashioka said. “I’m just glad he was able to stay in the game, because it’s a really scary situation.”
With another series loss on the books, the Yankees, last in line, will look to win a four-game set in Detroit. The Tigers sit in third place in the terrible American League Central, but they were 59-70 going into the game on Sunday.
Then again, “We haven’t been very good,” Boone said after his Yankees lost another rubber game. “It was all a challenge, not a rubber game. Everything was a challenge. We have to play better.
Luis Severino and Michael King will start the first two games of the series, which begins Monday, for the Yankees, while Reese Olson and Tarik Skubal will take the ball for Detroit.
The Tigers had yet to announce their starters for Wednesday and Thursday at press time. Gerrit Cole and Clarke Schmidt will start the final two games of the series before the Yankees travel to Houston.