Albert Abreu of the Yankees looks on after surrendering a fifth-inning grand...

Albert Abreu of the Yankees looks on after surrendering a fifth-inning grand slam against the  Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees went into Sunday’s series finale against Tampa Bay with an overtaxed bullpen.  

That bill came due when Albert Abreu was called into a tie game with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning. He gave up a grand slam to Taylor Walls and the Rays held on for an 8-7 victory before 42,116 at Yankee Stadium. 

Down 8-4 after the slam, the Yankees came close in an attempt for their third stirring comeback win of the series. Aaron Judge had a two-out RBI single in the seventh and Anthony Volpe cracked a two-out, two-run homer to left in the eighth. 

But the Yankees went down in order against Jason Adam in the ninth, with Judge ending the game on a drive to left-center that landed in the glove of centerfielder Jose Siri just in front of the Rays' bullpen. 

Hey, Siri: What a series! 

The Rays got the victory to earn a split of the four games. AL East-leading Tampa Bay left the Bronx (to head to Queens to play the Mets starting Tuesday) with an eight-game advantage over the Yankees. 

The teams don’t meet again until July 31. Tampa Bay leads the season series 4-3, and all but one of the exhausting battles has been decided by one run. 

“This is great baseball. It’s competitive baseball,” said Harrison Bader, who made a diving backhand catch in deep left-center to rob Randy Arozarena moments before Walls' grand slam. “Couldn’t ask for more. It’s a really good matchup. I really like how this year’s shaking out in terms of the level of competition on both sides and just how intense it is. It’s awesome. It’s just a blast playing against those guys.” 

After falling behind 3-0 after 2½ innings, the Yankees entered the fifth with a 4-3 lead. Oswaldo Cabrera and Anthony Rizzo hit two-run homers off Tampa Bay starter Zach Eflin (5-1, 3.38 ERA) in the third. 

Cabrera’s third home run went just over the leaping try of Josh Lowe in right-center, hit the top of the wall and continued into the stands. Rizzo’s ninth and third in three days was a two-out moonshot that landed in the second deck in right, just inside the foul pole. 

But the Rays rallied in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Arozarena sent a drive to the left-centerfield warning track that Bader caught with a spectacular dive in front of the 399-foot sign. The sacrifice fly-that-could-have-been-much-more tied the score at 4. 

Schmidt walked Lowe on a close 3-and-2 pitch and manager Aaron Boone brought in Abreu, who went into the game with a 5.09 ERA, highest by far among the Yankees’ regular relievers. 

Abreu is not Boone’s first choice in a tight spot very often, but with no off days since May 4 and a bruising first three games against the Rays, the bullpen was spent. 

“It was a big situation in the game,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “My job is to go in there and minimize damage.” 

He did the exact opposite. After getting ahead 1-and-2 with a well-located changeup, Abreu threw a poorly located changeup that Walls deposited into the seats in right-center for an 8-4 Tampa Bay lead. It was the fourth straight changeup thrown by Abreu, whose fastball can reach triple-digits. 

Abreu said he had “no doubt at all” about throwing a changeup. Boone didn’t sound as if he agreed. 

“I want to dive into that more,” he said. “Obviously, we’re aware of it right in the moment and [was] kind of like, ‘Was that four in a row?’ So we’ll tackle that head on.” 

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake was ejected by plate umpire Mike Muchlinski after the grand slam. Blake (along with the entire Yankees bench) was irked by the close ball four call on the walk to Lowe. 

Schmidt (1-4) was charged with seven runs (three on the grand slam) in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits, walked three and struck out five. Schmidt’s ERA after nine starts is 6.30. 

The Yankees pulled to within 8-5 on Judge’s  RBI single in the seventh and had Rizzo at the plate as the tying run. But Rizzo swung through a high fastball from Kevin Kelly to end the inning. 

Volpe brought the Yankees within 8-7 in the eighth with his  sixth home run. Then came Judge’s attempt to tie it in the ninth. His drive went 112 mph off the bat and traveled 399 feet with a 38-degree launch angle (that’s high). 

While Bader said “I thought he hit it out of the stadium” — and the reactions of reliever Adam, the Yankees' dugout and the fans behind the dugout clearly showed they agreed — Judge knew better because of how high he hit the ball. 

“I was kind of praying for a miracle once it got up there,” he said.  


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