Aaron Boone often has found sunlight in the darkest of alleys.
But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do that with Sonny Gray.
After several days of some at-times-breathless media dissection of an altered delivery, hand positioning and Gray’s desire to become more “athletic” on the mound, the righthander turned in a performance remarkably similar to his other 2018 outings.
If you haven’t been paying attention, that’s not a good thing.
Handed a pair of two-run leads, Gray failed to get through four innings in an 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays on another frosty night at the Stadium that included a wind-chill of 36 degrees by game’s end.
“I’m frustrated, yeah,” Gray said. “I expect a lot more from myself. We hit a two-run homer, I give up a two-spot the next inning. We got another two-run homer to take the lead and I give the lead right back up. That’s frustrating not only for myself but for the rest of the guys in the locker room for sure.’’
Gray, coming off an erratic outing April 12 in Boston in which he allowed six runs in three innings, gave up five runs, five hits and four walks in 3 1⁄3 innings Friday night, swelling his ERA to 8.27 in four starts. He didn’t take the loss, but that didn’t make his outing any more impressive.
“The fastball velocity was down and then just a struggle getting behind some guys and then mistakes and it turned into a tough night for him,’’ said Boone, who added that he doesn’t think the dip in velocity is due to an injury. “So we have to kind of circle the wagons with him and continue to work through it because he’s really important to us. But this was tough tonight.”
Gray didn’t make much of the drop in velocity. “I feel fine,” he said. “It’s 40 degrees outside. I don’t think anybody’s throwing as hard as they’re going to in the middle of the summer.”
Of the delivery adjustments, he said: “I tried to continue the work we put in during the week. It just kind of fell apart there in the middle innings.”
The Yankees, who got two-run homers by Tyler Austin and Giancarlo Stanton and a solo shot by Miguel Andujar but had exactly two at-bats with runners in scoring position (they went 0-for-2), fell to 9-9. Entering the Boston-Oakland game late Friday night, the Yankees already were seven games behind the Red Sox, off to the best start in franchise history.
“We have a lot of season left,” said Stanton, who snapped a homerless stretch of 50 at-bats with his two-out, two-run shot to rightfield in the third that gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead. “A lot of time to catch up.”
The surprising Blue Jays, behind three RBIs from Teoscar Hernandez, including a two-run homer, and a three-RBI night by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who made his big-league debut after being called up earlier in the day from Double-A New Hampshire, are 13-6.
Toronto righthander Marco Estrada allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. Three Toronto relievers got the ball to Roberto Osuna, who worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.
Aaron Hicks walked with one out in the second and Austin lined a 2-and-1 fastball to right for a 2-0 lead.
Hernandez tied it in the third with his second homer — on a 1-and-1 fastball that Gray and Gary Sanchez said was a good pitch — but the Yankees responded with Stanton’s first home run since April 4.
Gray, however, again could not hold the lead. Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales started the fourth with doubles that made it 4-3. Later in the inning, Gurriel delivered his first career hit, a two-run single that gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 lead. When Curtis Granderson walked, Boone had seen enough, bringing in Domingo German.
Andujar’s homer tied it at 5 in the fourth — and gave him four doubles, a triple and two home runs in his last four games — but Toronto got two in the fifth off German (0-1) and a solo homer by Yangervis Solarte off Adam Warren in the sixth to make it 8-5.
“I believe we have the guys in that room to get it done,” Boone said. “We’ve been hit a little bit, obviously, by the injury bug, but we still have guys in that room very capable of getting it done.”