ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After watching his team get blitzed by nine runs in a shutout loss Friday night, Aaron Boone, somewhat out of character, took the Yankees to task.
“That’s an embarrassing loss,’’ he said. “That’s hopefully one of those rock-bottom situations where you should be [ticked] off and embarrassed. We’ve set a better standard around here.”
The current standard has been low for quite a while, though, and the Yankees continue to lower it.
They ran their scoreless-innings streak to 21 Saturday night before Aaron Judge led off the ninth inning with his 52nd homer. That left them a run short in a 2-1 loss to the Rays.
Since taking a 15 1⁄2-game lead over the Rays on July 8, the Yankees have gone 18-31 and have seen their lead over Tampa Bay trimmed to four games, three in the loss column. The Yankees led the Rays by 12 games on Aug. 12, but Tampa Bay has gone 16-4 to the Yankees’ 8-12 since then.
“It’s time to roll,’’ Giancarlo Stanton said. “We know where it’s at; we have to keep pushing and get tomorrow . . . it’s still ours. We’re not where we want to be but we still [have] a fine opportunity. It’s definitely ours for the taking.”
Said Aaron Boone: “Everyone handles it a little bit different, and we’re going to find out what we’re made of. We’re as deep in the adversity as you can [be], with a couple of key guys going out, a stretch of losing baseball, all the noise, a lot of people out there really mad. What’s our response? We’re in control of it. So it’s on us. It’s on us to do it.”
He also said: “If we don’t dig ourselves out, you’ll have a great story to write.”
The Yankees (79-54) had gone 10-for-87 in their last three games and hadn’t scored in their previous 21 innings before Judge hit Jason Adam’s changeup over the right-centerfield wall. They have scored three runs in their last 32 innings and are 9-18 in one-run games since June 19.
Judge has been one of their very few bright spots of late. After going homerless in nine straight games, he has hit six in the last 10. His pace projects to 63 homers, which would give him the American League record.
Former Yankee Corey Kluber (10-7, 4.00) allowed two hits in seven innings for the Rays.
“We just have to start having small victories within at-bats, winning pitches, focusing on that as much as we can,’’ Boone said. “Kluber was good. I don’t know how many strike ones he got on the night, but he was dictating counts all night and we’re hitting from behind all night, outside of [Oswald] Peraza smoked the ball off him and Judge there later on. Again, just wasn’t good enough. We’ve got to win small battles right now in the batter’s box. That’s putting together good at-bats.”
A throwing error and a single by Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees runners at the corners with one out in the first. Stanton was thrown out trying to take second on a pitch in the dirt and Josh Donaldson grounded out.
With runners on second and third and one out in the third, Yandy Diaz smacked a comebacker that glanced off Clarke Schmidt’s foot and bounded into right for a two-run single.
A throwing error and Judge’s line-drive single put runners at first and second with one out in the sixth. DJ LeMahieu struck out looking, which dropped him to 2-for-32. Stanton grounded out to second, falling to 4-for-28 since coming off the IL.
“I need to, in coming back, be an impact, not have basically zero production,’’ he said. “So I’m disappointed in that. I need to find it as well. I need to be a boost here, not a blank spot in the lineup.”
The Ray ran themselves out of a big inning in the seventh. Francisco Mejia led off against Ron Marinaccio with a single and Jose Siri walked. Taylor Walls roped one over Oswaldo Cabrera’s head in right, but Mejia got a poor read off second. Although he was waved home, he held up coming around third and was caught between the bag and home. An alert Gleyber Torres, after taking Cabrera’s relay throw, ran straight at Mejia from short right and eventually tagged him out. Jonathan Loaisiga then got Diaz to ground into an inning-ending 6-3 double play started by Peraza, who made his first MLB start.
“We’re upset, disappointed,’’ Stanton said. “I’m very upset. We’ve got tomorrow. We have a quick night and just go tomorrow. We just have to push forward.”