ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Welcome to the 2021 Yankees, Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo.
The Yankees, whose offense has been an issue pretty much all season, won the first two games of this series against the Rays on the strength of their pitching more than anything else.
Going for the rare sweep – of anyone in 2021 – and feeling good about that attempt with ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Yankees instead were handed perhaps their most embarrassing defeat of the season, mauled by the Rays, 14-0, Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
"It’s going to be really hard when your starter puts you down 4-0 in the first to muster something up against a team of this quality," Cole said. "I think we've had some opportunities to sweep and maybe not had some stuff go our way, but in respect to this series, this one's on me."
The Yankees (53-48), who expect to have Gallo in uniform Friday night in Miami when they start a three-game series against the Marlins and perhaps Rizzo later this weekend, saw Cole allow those four first-inning runs, settle down and then watched the Rays, aided by Brett Gardner's error, erupt for 10-runs in a remarkable sixth inning.
In the inning, the Rays (61-42) sent 14 batters to the plate with, at one point, 11 straight reaching base.
"Obviously, things really unraveled," Gardner said.
Cole (10-6, 3.11), who trailed 4-0 four batters into the game, entered the sixth with the same deficit. Austin Meadows, who hit a three-run homer in the first to make it 4-0, singled with one out, the beginning of the streak of 11 straight reaching base. Randy Arozarena singled and Wander Franco walked to load the bases. Kevin Kiermaier then sent a drive to left where Gardner, after running to get into position, mishandled the ball and dropped it, his error leading to two runs that made it 6-0.
"A play that I've made hundreds and hundreds of times," Gardner said. "I don't want to say it was routine, but I took my eye off the ball and when I turned back around to pick the ball back up, I just picked up some lights. And it obviously affected my vision…just very, very frustrating for me."
Cole was done but his line was not as Albert Abreu took a torch to things, walking Mike Zunino and then allowing Brett Phillips’ first career grand slam, which made it 10-0. Former Yankee Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer later in inning, as did Meadows to make it 14-0.
Cole was charged with eight runs (seven earned) – the most he’s allowed as a Yankee – and six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out 10.
On this day, the Yankees’ ace was severely outpitched by Luis Patino, a 21-year-old righthander acquired from the Padres in the Blake Snell deal late last December, came in 1-2 with a 5.26 ERA in seven games (five starts).
He turned in far and away his best outing as a Ray, striking out eight and allowing three hits and two walks over six scoreless innings.
"Credit to Patino," Aaron Boone said. "He was very tough on us and we just weren’t able to mount much."
The Rays thought they had a 1-0 lead when leadoff man Brandon Lowe skied a first-pitch fastball down the rightfield line, the ball was called fair by first-base umpire Jeremie Rehak as it sailed over the foul pole, resulting in Lowe’s 23rd homer. But the four umpires gathered and called it foul. A replay review upheld the foul call.
Lowe reached on an infield single and Cole walked Choi on five pitches. Yandy Diaz followed with a ground shot back up the middle , the RBI single making it 1-0. Meadows, who in his young career has already hit his share of homers against the Yankees, added another, hammering a curveball to right-center for his 19th homer and a four-run Tampa lead. The day would not get any better for the Yankees, who hope better days for their offense start soon Friday with the arrival of Gallo.