The New York Yankees lost the first ball game of an important four game series against the Tampa Bay Rays by the score of 3-1 on Memorial Day at Yankee Stadium. The Rays’ efficient offense was powered by multi-hit ball games from designated hitter Austin Meadows and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. Both went 2-for-4 on the afternoon with Meadows hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning and Kiermaier scoring two runs. Kiermaier was driven in by a third inning double by right fielder Manuel Margot and then a two out single by left fielder Randy Arozarena in the fifth inning. The Yankees’ lone run came on a two out solo home run by left fielder Miguel Andujar in the seventh inning.
As the Yankees have lost four consecutive ball games and six out of their last ten, they have scored two runs or less 13 times during the month of May according to Baseball-Reference. Most of the damage has been done over the past 12 ball games with the Yankees scoring two runs or less nine times dating back to right-handed pitcher Corey Kluber’s May 19th no-hitter against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. According to the YES Network, run scoring futility of this nature over a 12-ball game period has not been seen by the Yankees since August 1971.
The defending American League champions have been a highly competitive ball club in recent years, but the Rays are currently playing at another level. Since losing to the Yankees on May 12th thanks to a 12-strikeout performance over eight innings by right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Rays have won 16 of 17 ball games while averaging seven runs per game. Currently in first place in the American League East, the Rays have an impressive 20-7 road record on the season complemented by a +63-run differential through 55 ball games. After posting a 13-14 record in the month of April, the Rays have won 22 ball games in the month of May.
Rich Hill, a journeyman 41-year-old left-handed pitcher, won his fourth ball game of the season after five innings of shutout baseball while only allowing three hits. Hill threw a total of 56 pitches as his four-seam fastball reached 89.4 miles per hour according to Baseball Savant. The Rays used five pitchers while only allowing five hits.
In front of 17,008 fans, the largest crowd at Yankee Stadium this season, several of the ball players could not hide their emotions. In the bottom of the third inning, right fielder Aaron Judge hit a 1-2 curveball from Hill to the warning track in right field where Margot caught the baseball in front of the wall. As Judge was rounding first base, he was seen during the broadcast on the YES Network yelling in frustration. In the top of the inning, Judge overthrew his cutoff man, second baseman Rougned Odor, allowing Kiermaier to score on Margot’s double from first base.
Shortstop Gleyber Torres committed his third error in two ball games by overthrowing first baseman DJ LeMahieu on a ground ball hit by Rays third baseman Yandy Diaz in the sixth inning. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-4 and is now 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts since returning to the lineup after missing 13 ball games due to a left quadriceps strain. For the second consecutive day, the Yankees brought the tying run to home plate in the ninth inning only to see the hitter strike out to end the ball game. First, it was Judge striking out with the bases loaded against the Detroit Tigers and now it was Andujar striking out with a runner on second base against the Rays.
In the postgame press conference, manager Aaron Boone was pleased to see the Yankees were producing quality at bats while demonstrating an aggressiveness that has been missing in recent ball games. Boone will continue to meticulously prepare detailed game plans while focusing on subtle adjustments for individual ball players. Even though Stanton has been rusty since returning from the injured list, Boone believes he will round into form if he is healthy.
The New York Yankees know their offensive philosophy and identity is tied to controlling the strike zone and doing damage on mistake pitches. They take tremendous pride in making pitchers work hard and finding perfect pitches to hit during each at bat of a ball game. As the Yankees continue to search for their groove amid a difficult period of offensive inconsistency and losing, the Tampa Bay Rays’ athleticism and efficiency will continue to cause problems for every ball club in the American League.