Rays’ slip-up against Yankees: Is it a costly mistake that they will regret later?

The Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.
Sara Molnick
Sunday May 7, 2023

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fl — The Rays’ shocking home loss to the Yankees on Saturday caught everyone off guard in Tampa Bay. They lost to the Yankees, who are their toughest contender for the divisional title, after Harrison Bader led the comeback fight in the bottom of the ninth.

Will the Rays come to deeply regret this decision? Will this be a defining moment of the season?

The return of the Yankees

Even though the Rays’ bullpen has been solid during the first month of the season, the Yankees realized there was a slim possibility that they might pull off an upset this weekend. But nevertheless, the Yankees were attempting to exploit one chink in the Rays’ armor.

“Listen, their starting pitcher (Drew Rasmussen) did a really good job. He had really good stuff. But we stuck with it, stayed confident, and found some ways to kind of sneak in there and get rolling,” outfielder Harrison Bader told after the Yankees cruised past the Rays.

Harrison Bader is during Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

Harrison Bader, who wasn’t even in the starting lineup, saw an opportunity for the Yankees to win their biggest comeback game of the season. The Rays’ relievers couldn’t stop a resolute push by the Yankees.

Bader entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning w hen the Yankees were behind by two runs. He stayed on it and had a major impact. In the eighth inning, his two-run single proved to be the decisive hit that secured the win for his team.

“They didn’t try to do too much and kind of shot, I think, three balls the other way,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash admitted. “I thought (reliever Kevin Kelly) made some really good pitches. You’ve got to tip your cap to those guys, squaring balls up, and then Bader had the big hit — kind of looked like he cued that one, but they all count, certainly that one.”

The Yankees (18-16) were given a chance to turn their season around at this point. Game 3 will see the Yankees ace Gerrit Cole starting on the mound against the American League-leading Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays have had a successful season at home, losing only one of their series thus far. However, they still maintain a nine-game lead over the struggling New York Yankees in the East Division. For the Yankees, this presents a significant opportunity to make up ground and gain momentum, as they are currently struggling to keep pace with the Rays.

DJ LeMahieu is celebrating after a run in Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

Yankees are determined

“Anytime you play here and know how tough it is to play here and against that team and how well they’re playing, for us to scratch and claw our way back (Friday) night and lose a tough one and then fall behind (Saturday) and keep on scratching, that’s big,” manager Aaron Boone said.

According to him, he understands that the team is currently dealing with a tough situation, including a spate of injuries. However, he took the opportunity to remind the team that despite these setbacks, they are still in the game and should continue to give their best effort. Although he acknowledged that the present circumstances are challenging, he stressed the significance of maintaining a competitive spirit and pushing through the difficulties they face.

Ian Hamilton is during Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

He said that they needed to continue to compete and give their best effort. This marked the first defeat for the Rays after taking the initial lead and the first time they lost while leading after seven innings this season.

From the Yankees’ point of view, it was the first time this year that they had the winning hit in the eighth inning or later when they were already behind. The next week, the Rays will go to the Bronx to face the Yankees four times. Bader is already back and the Yankees’ power hitter Aaron Judge will return to a regular workload this week.

Bader is certain that they will be able to start making progress against the Rays today. He said that they were fighting through their current situation and finding their stride, which is normal for the early part of the season. Bader believed that if this is the worst baseball they will play all year, then they are in a good position. He also mentioned that they are playing with confidence, and a win like this would create momentum for them.

Harrison Bader is celebrating during Yankees (3) vs. Rays (2) at Tropicana Field on May 6, 2023.

“We’re fighting, and we’re going through stuff. We’re just finding our stride, which is completely normal,” he said. “It’s the early part of the season and if this is the worst baseball we’ll play all year, then I think we’re in a really good spot. We’re playing confidently, and wins like this definitely create some momentum for us.”

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