A silver lining in Yankees’ series defeat to Rays, revival gathers steam

The Yankees' dugout at Tropicana Field on May 7, 2023.

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Losing a six-run lead to succumb in the tenth inning is something unthinkable for a $300-million Yankees team. However, fans had to bear with that on Sunday at Tropicana Field. They also saw ace pitcher Gerrit Cole yielding his first home run and the first loss of the season after 51 undefeated innings.

How the Yankees handled the game, their decisions, ensuing reactions, and the fallout long after it had gone awry revealed a great deal about the current state of the team. Aaron Hicks was thrown out at home on a grounder to shortstop by Gleyber Torres with one out in the 10th inning and the game knotted 7-7 with the Rays.

Hicks’ mistake signals Yankees’ confusion

All the baseball experts would love to say that Hicks should have chilled on third base and waited for his chance to score in the next at-bat. Given the number of big bats the Yankees have on the injured list, they’re missing a bunch of their top players. So, it’s no secret that they’re struggling right now. The Yankees hoped that Torres’s hit would find a hole or that a defensive error would allow Hicks to score rather than having to rely on their lineup again, so they told him to rush home as soon as he made contact. Fortunately for the Yankees, Torres was able to make it all the way around to third base because Hicks was caught in a rundown.

The Yankees left fielder initially believed that he had been tagged out and that the umpire had called the play. However, upon realizing his mistake, he quickly tried to run toward home plate, only to be tagged by Issac Paredes (#17). This resulted in a prolonged rundown, which allowed Torres to advance to third base.

Manager Aaron Boone later said, “If you’re not going on contact when the ball is hit slowly to the side, you’re not going to score,” 

“As soon as Gleyber’s getting ready to swing, I’ve kind of got to get ready to go, ”Hicks has his own version. “By halfway, I realized I was pretty dead right there, and just tried to stay in the rundown.”

Hicks faltered and the Yankees’ gamble at Tropicana Field against the American League East leaders paid off poorly, as they were defeated by the Rays, 8-7, in extra innings.

The defeat brought forth numerous reasons to view the Yankees’ current position in the standings as if everything was collapsing for the team. After this defeat, the Yankees (18-17) fell to last place, 10 games behind the Rays (28-7). While the Yankees’ greatest pitcher, Gerrit Cole, was on the mound, the team blew a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning. Boone conceded that he should have replaced Cole with reliever Jimmy Cordero earlier. But Cordero made a stupid play of his own when he failed to look back at third base on a comebacker, letting the runner score and giving the Rays a 7-6 lead in the sixth inning.

However, criticizing everything would be too simple. After a rough weekend, the Yankees have a few grounds for cautious optimism.

Yankees’ big guns are set to return

The Yankees are anticipating that their prized slugger, Aaron Judge, will be activated from the injured list on Tuesday. Due to a right hip issue, he has been sidelined since April 27. That does more than just restore one of baseball’s most feared sluggers to the Yankees’ lineup. It also means less playing time for players like Willie Calhoun, Hicks, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Jake Bauers who are just filling in and haven’t been very effective. With Harrison Bader’s return to form from the disabled list after the first month, Judge can relax in the right field instead of putting extra strain on his body in the center.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees

Also, Luis Severino will pitch in a simulated game for the first time this week. The Yankees starter believes he doesn’t need more than two rehab games to assure the team about his fitness to make his regular-season debut with the MLB club. With Severino back in the rotation, the unimpressive Clarke Schmidt could be sent to the bullpen, but Jhony Brito could also be forced out. Both Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton are working hard to get back from hamstring strains.

Yankees gave a tough fight despite losing their best

Even though they were missing their best-starting pitcher (Severino), their best hitter (Stanton), their third baseman (Donaldson), and two of their best relievers (Lou Trivino, Tommy Kahnle, and Jonathan Loaisiga), the Yankees still managed to play three one-run games with the Rays, who have the best record in MLB.

“It’s a tough one, but I think overall in the series we showed up to play and were right there with them,” according to Anthony Rizzo. “Feel like we could have walked away with three of these games and they probably feel the same way.”

Gerrit Cole said: “It’s always a battle against these guys. I thought that the level of compete was there from every pitch.”

Yankees’ redemption is not far

Starting on Monday, the Yankees will host three games against the A’s (8-27). Then, starting on Thursday, they will have another opportunity to play the Rays in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. Next up is a four-game road trip against the third-place Toronto Blue Jays. There will be times when the Yankees have a chance to make a big difference in the standings.

Good news for the Yankees

The game wasn’t a win but there were a few bright spots worth mentioning. Harrison Bader was on fire yet again, racking up three hits and two RBIs. And that two-runner bomb he dropped in the 3rd inning was just a glimpse of what to come in days ahead.

Then, Oswaldo Cabrera stepped up and hit a sacrifice fly that brought Bader in, pushing the Yankees’ lead to six. Oswaldo Cabrera was on point with two hits, while DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres each had a pair of hits themselves. Anthony Rizzo was a boss, walking three times and even smashing a solo homer with an RBI to boot.

Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, and Michael King teamed up to give 3.0 innings of pure magic, only giving up one hit and striking out a whopping seven batters. The bullpen was on point, but let’s be real – Cole’s performance was a bit of a bummer. In the last three games, Bader’s been crushing it with six hits, seven RBIs, and two homers.

The Yankees are amped up for Aaron Judge’s comeback on Tuesday when they take on the Oakland Athletics. They’re seriously gathering their outfield worthy of an MLB diamond.

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