The Yankees misplaced once more on Sunday to Tampa Bay, 4-2, a drearily routine end in an oddly lopsided rivalry. The Rays pulled their traditional pitching voodoo, with an opener drafted within the 45th spherical and a better with no profession saves. The pitcher who labored a lot of the recreation has one of many slowest fastballs within the sport.
That is what the Rays do, time and again, in opposition to the Yankees. They’ve gained 18 of the final 23 video games between the groups, relationship to September 2019 and together with final fall’s victory within the division sequence. Even when the Yankees begin Gerrit Cole, whom they lured with the richest pitching contract in baseball historical past, the Rays often win.
Counting Sunday, the Yankees have gained solely two of Cole’s six begins in opposition to Tampa Bay. The Yankees have thrice the payroll of the Rays, however can’t break the spell of their nameless pitching wizards.
“Irrespective of who they’ve going out right here, usually Tampa is a difficult group; they’re actually good at limiting runs,” Yankees Supervisor Aaron Boone mentioned after the Rays held his offense to 11 hits in a weekend sweep. “However we’re additionally, by and huge, wholesome and clearly very succesful.”
Is it apparent, although? By repute and up to date historical past, the Yankees ought to have a thunderous offense. They led the American League in runs per recreation in 2020 and introduced virtually everybody again. However as they’ve staggered to a 5-10 document this season, their issues have gone deeper than a irritating matchup with the Rays.
As a group, they’ve performed in regards to the equal of a full season for a place participant: 553 plate appearances, sufficient to qualify for a batting title. Their collective common is .210, with a .296 on-base share and a .346 slugging share.
Few gamers ever get the prospect to be so unhealthy for therefore lengthy. Just one A.L. participant in Boone’s lifetime has had 550 plate appearances in a season with decrease marks in common, on-base and slugging: Billy Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles in 1988. That was the yr he posed for his notorious baseball card with an obscenity scrawled on the knob of his bat.
For Yankees followers, this group should encourage related salty language. The Yankees haven’t began this poorly in 24 years, and in addition to the depressing hitting, they’ve been harm by sloppy fielding and shaky beginning pitching. Within the 11 video games not began by Cole, Yankees starters are 1-6 with a 6.39 earned run common.
In equity, the Yankees are down a starter (Luis Severino), a slugger (Luke Voit) and a setup man (Zack Britton), who’re all recovering from accidents. However virtually each group is lacking an impression participant or two, and just one — the Colorado Rockies — has a worse document than the Yankees.
The calendar is their salvation, after all; the Yankees haven’t even performed 10 p.c of their 162-game schedule. However the angst is palpable: Followers pelted the sphere with baseballs on Friday, after which Boone voiced his displeasure to the group in a postgame clubhouse assembly. However the Yankees misplaced twice extra.
“I’ve been on some groups in Pittsburgh that have been within the playoff hunt on the All-Star break and the wheels fully fell off within the second half, so it’s a very lengthy yr, quite a bit can occur,” mentioned starter Jameson Taillon, including that he was looking forward to his injured teammates to return.
“I believe everybody within the room has the assumption that we’re going to show it round and we’re going to be a very, actually good group nonetheless. However on the identical time, each recreation must have that urgency. We will’t afford to only hold going about our enterprise.”
The Yankees will make a minimum of one roster transfer earlier than Tuesday, when Taillon begins in opposition to Atlanta within the Bronx: First baseman Jay Bruce introduced his retirement on Sunday. Bruce, a three-time All-Star, was hitting .118 with one homer and mentioned he may not play to his requirements. He made certain to signal the clubhouse wall, the place everybody who has ever performed for the Yankees is welcome so as to add his title.
“I don’t have a plan for what’s subsequent,” mentioned Bruce, 34, who hit 319 dwelling runs, tied with Cecil and Prince Fielder (yep, they’d the identical complete) on the profession record. “My son begins kindergarten in August, so I will likely be a shuttle service, on the very least.
“So far as baseball goes — I like baseball, anybody who is aware of me is aware of that I’m such a giant fan of baseball, I all the time have been. I am going dwelling at evening and I watch baseball. Some individuals will suppose that’s loopy, some individuals suppose it’s superior.”
It’s superior, little doubt — and if Bruce actually loves the game, he’ll keep up late to observe the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, particularly once they play one another, as they did over the weekend. That rivalry is by far essentially the most compelling one within the recreation; a lot expertise and character bunched up the identical division.
The Yankees-Rays video games have felt vastly completely different as a result of the Yankees have barely proven up. For now, they’re their very own largest rival. They need to maintain their noses and hold slogging forward.
“We’ve an excessive amount of expertise and too many good gamers which have gone by means of adversity earlier than to essentially be shocked by it,” Cole mentioned, including, “You’re going to must strap your boots on and wade by means of the mud.”