Aaron Boone didn’t set the bar exceedingly high in laying out his expectations for Luis Cessa Wednesday night.
“Expect him to give us a chance to win,” Boone said. “Hopefully, he can get us into middle innings and we take it from there.”
Instead, it was Cessa taking the Yankees down with him, unable to complete even four innings in a 6-1 loss to the Rays in front of an irritated Stadium crowd of 42,716.
“Just too many mistakes on the plate with all his pitches,” Boone said.
Cessa was in the rotation because CC Sabathia has right knee inflammation that is supposed to keep the lefty out just one start.
The Yankees certainly hope so.
Cessa (1-3, 5.60), who allowed five runs and seven hits, was booed off the mound after allowing Mallex Smith’s two-run homer with one out in the fourth that put the Yankees (75-45) in a 5-1 hole.
“Tried to be aggressive early in the count and they hit it,” Cessa said.
After the game, the Yankees announced that Cessa had been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The surprising Rays (61-59) are 8-6 against the Yankees. They had four pitchers control the Yankees, who had only five hits. Jake Faria started and allowed one run and three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Ryan Yarbrough (11-5) gave up two hits in four shutout innings and earned the win.
“We got a few guys on base, but for the most part just weren’t able to string together good at-bats,” Brett Gardner said. “Kind of a disappointing game for us, to be honest.”
The lone bright spot – though not all that bright – was the Yankees stayed 10 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East as Boston took a rare loss Wednesday, to the Phillies. But it's been a good long while since the Yankees have given off the vibe of a team ready to make a run at the Red Sox. Since improving to 50-22 June 21 – and taking a two-game lead in the division – the Yankees are 25-23, though they have won seven of 10.
Boone said his club’s belief in itself hasn’t been impacted, even with its recent struggles and missing key components Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
“I have no issue with our confidence,” Boone said. “We’re in the midst of a tough stretch for us, just how we are a little banged up, obviously. It’s not easy for us right now, but I feel like the guys have a really good perspective on things and are fighting their way through it.”
Tampa Bay took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the second. After former Yankee Ji-Man Choi led off by stinging a grounder right at Didi Gregorius, Kevin Kiermaier doubled to left. Cessa struck out Willy Adames swinging on a fastball but Brandon Lowe collected his first big-league hit, dumping a first-pitch fastball to left, the RBI single making it 1-0.
Miguel Andujar quickly tied it in the bottom half, leading off by hammering a 3-and-1 fastball to left-center for his 19th homer. That gave Andujar, the leader among MLB rookies with 54 extra-base hits, his fifth homer in his last nine games and 18 RBIs in his last 18 games. Andujar came into the night 40 for his last 118 (.339) with eight doubles, six homers and 19 RBIs.
The Rays came right back, getting an RBI groundout by Choi and an RBI single by Kiermaier that made it 3-1. Smith’s dagger came an inning later.
“I feel like the guys’ frame of mind, to a man in that room, everyone understands how much we’re capable of,” Boone said. “Certainly as we become more and more whole, we put ourselves in a good position to finish strong these final seven weeks of the season and give ourselves a chance, hopefully, come October.”