Yankees Waste Chance to Inch Closer to Boston as Gray Can’t Hold Lead
Yankees are now three back with three to play in AL East.
The New York Yankees wasted an opportunity to make things very interesting the American League East on Thursday evening by falling to the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-6.
With the Boston Red Sox losing to the Houston Astros, the Yankees could have moved within two games of Boston with three to play. Instead, they are on the brink of being eliminated from the division race. The Red Sox can now clinch the division with one win or one Yankees lose.
The Yankees had an early three-run lead after Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Greg Bird hit solo home runs.
Starting pitcher Sonny Gray, however, could not hold the lead. Gray struggled with command and seemed unable to be aggressive in the strike zone. The Rays took advantage. He could not get out of the fifth. Gray’s final line was 4.2 innings, six runs on six hits, two strikeouts, and five walks.
For all the talk by manager Joe Girardi on how the Yankees would do everything they could to try and catch Boston, you wouldn’t know it the way he used his bullpen on Thursday. Instead of using someone like David Robertson or Tommy Kahnle to get out of the fifth inning jam, he called upon Jonathan Holder. Holder promptly gave up two runs on two hits and the Rays were able to pull away. Chasen Shreve would also give up a run in the sixth and Tampa Bay never looked back.
Prior to the game, Girardi had said Dellin Betances and Chad Green would not be available.
Aaron Hicks added a pinch-hit solo home run in the ninth to put the Yankees within three, but that was as close as they could get.
The Yankees are now three games back with three to go, meaning the Yankees could force a tie if they sweep the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston loses their final three to Houston. A tie would force the teams to play one game on Monday to decide the division winner. At this point, you probably don’t want that to happen, and just deal with the one game Wild Card at home against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.
It’s a tough loss to swallow but the Yankees must continue to look at the bigger picture and this roster has the ability to make a run in the playoffs. Thursday was likely the last appearance by Gray before a potential postseason start. If the Yankees do play and win the Wild Card game on Tuesday, Gray would likely be the Game 1 starter in the Division Series.