A major league baseball game is no place for moral victories, but that was about the only type of win the Yankees could muster Saturday afternoon.
They were livelier than they were in an embarrassing loss to the Rays on Friday night, and they certainly made Rays ace Tyler Glasnow work, but it wasn’t enough. They again failed to get the big hit and lost to Tampa Bay, 6-3, at the Stadium.
Coming off an 8-2 loss to the Rays, the Yankees were held to five hits by Glasnow and four relievers, went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base. Their fourth straight loss dropped them to 5-9, the worst record in the American League. They have lost 14 of their last 17 regular-season games against the Rays.
Aaron Boone reamed out his team after Friday’s loss, but he took a gentler approach after this latest failure. The Yankees played a cleaner game in that they committed no official errors — as opposed to the three they had Friday — and for the first two innings, as Glasnow struggled to find himself, they almost really got somewhere. Almost.
"I felt we were much more in the fight today, which is at least a good thing," Boone said. "But we don’t want moral victories right now. We want to start stringing it together, we want to start putting it together, especially offensively, to where we can start running off some wins. We’ve got to start playing better, obviously. Today was at least a step in that direction, but we need to start getting some results, too."
Three two-out homers accounted for five of the Rays’ runs — two-run shots by Joey Wendle and Manuel Margot and a solo drive by Francisco Mejia. Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery allowed only two hits in six innings-plus, striking out seven, but was charged with four runs.
A turning point came in the seventh when the Rays tacked on two runs to take a 5-1 lead. With one out, Margot stole second as Gleyber Torres whiffed on Kyle Higashioka’s low but catchable throw, which should have resulted in the second out. One out later, Wendle homered off Jonathan Loaisiga, with one of the runs charged to Montgomery.
Boone didn’t take exception to Torres’ performance on the play, though he said he hadn’t seen a replay yet. "It was a tough bang-bang play," he said.
The Yankees made it interesting in the bottom of the inning. Rougned Odor hit his first home run as a Yankee to bring them within 5-2 and DJ LeMahieu singled and scored on Aaron Judge’s double off Collin McHugh. McHugh then struck out Aaron Hicks for the second out and Ryan Thompson struck out Giancarlo Stanton to keep it at 5-3. Mejia’s RBI double in the ninth made it 6-3.
But it could have been so much closer, thanks to Glasnow’s growing pains. The 6-8 righthander, who generally has pinpoint command, struggled to locate his fastball, slider and curveball for the first two innings, nearly hitting two batters, issuing three walks and throwing a wild pitch. He seemingly made an adjustment between the second and third and recovered to allow one run and two hits in five innings, walking four and striking out seven. He threw 105 pitches and overcame a painful cramp in his glove hand in the fifth.
The Yankees — who stranded five runners in the first two innings — drew two walks to begin the second and, with one out, LeMahieu singled to center to tie the score at 1-1. Glasnow struck out Judge and got Hicks to line out to second to end the threat.
But that frame did show a glimmer of what the Yankees are capable of, Judge said.
"We saw a little bit of that grind in the second inning," he said. "That’s what’s going to help this team be successful and that’s what’s made us successful in the past — quality at bats . . . We saw glimpses of it today, but we weren’t able to get a big hit."
Another moral victory, but not the type of victory that counts.