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The Yankees decided to employ an opener against the Rays on Friday night, but unlike when they used an opener and were defeated in Game 2 of the ALDS last October, this loss mostly gets pinned on their feeble offense and some shoddy defense in an all-around disastrous night in The Bronx.
Yes, reliever Nick Nelson coughed up two runs in the first inning, but the Yankees’ surprisingly low-octane lineup was throttled again in a deservedly boo-filled 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay at the Stadium for a rough start to a five-game home stand.
The ugly game was delayed for several minutes in the home eighth inning, when several fans among the angry announced crowd of 10,202 threw baseballs and other objects onto the field.
Reliever Michael King exacted the 31st hit-by-pitch of a Tampa Bay player by a Yankees hurler since 2018, but the Rays only retaliated with their 14th win in 19 games (playoffs included) against the Bombers since the start of 2020. That includes Game 2 of last year’s ALDS, in which the Yankees pitched rookie Deivi Garcia as a one-inning opener before turning to veteran J.A Happ in what became a 7-5 defeat.
Former Mets righty Michael Wacha limited the Yankees (5-8) to one hit over six scoreless innings, before Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run homer off Trevor Richards in the seventh prevented their second shutout loss of the season. The 29-year-old Wacha, who walked two and struck out nine, pitched to a 6.62 ERA in eight games (seven starts) last year with the Mets.
Aaron Boone’s team also committed three errors in the game, two of them leading to three unearned runs in the Rays’ four-run fifth inning, which extended Tampa Bay’s lead to 6-0.
The Yankees now are batting just .222 for the season, with 14 homers through their first 13 games. Boone benched slumping first baseman Jay Bruce (1-for-19) Friday and dropped regular No. 3 hitter Aaron Hicks (.167) to the sixth spot for the first time this season.
The Yankees also opted to start Nelson as an opener, with King brought back from the alternate site to work behind him. Nelson, who previously had pitched to a 9.00 ERA over three relief appearances this season, was down 2-0 three batters into the game after Austin Meadows walked, Randy Arozarena doubled and Brandon Lowe hit a two-run double.
King hadn’t pitched since tossing six scoreless innings of relief and allowed just one hit, April 4 against the Blue Jays. The righty was optioned two days later to create a roster spot for Rougned Odor, but King was recalled on Friday to replace demoted Albert Abreu on the 26-man roster.
King worked in and out of trouble in two of his three scoreless innings to keep the Yankees within two runs. He escaped a first-and-third jam with none out in the third, recording two strikeouts. King also walked three straight batters with two down in the fourth before retiring cleanup hitter Yandy Diaz on a grounder to second.
Luis Cessa relieved King in the fifth, and the Rays quickly extended their lead to three on Mike Brosseau’s RBI double inside third base. Gio Urshela booted Willy Adames’ grounder to third to allow another run to score before Cessa reloaded the bases with two walks.
Second baseman Odor ‘s second error of the game — a wild throw past LeMahieu at first on what should have been an inning-ending double play — put the Yankees in a 6-0 hole. The Rays added two more runs on Mike Zunino’s double against Lucas Luetge in the sixth.
Stanton finally provided a rare positive moment when he followed Glebyer Torres’ leadoff single against Richards in the seventh by clubbing a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right for his second homer of the season.
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