ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After a rough start, Sonny Gray settled in.
The Yankees’ offense?
Not so much.
A bad Friday with the bats bled into a worse Saturday, resulting in a 4-0 loss to the Rays in front of 29,831 at Tropicana Field.
“You’re going to hit a little dry spell like that,” Aaron Boone said. “Over the course of 162, that’s going to happen. We’ve just got to keep grinding and really come back and have that urgency tomorrow and get out of here with one under our belt.”
After going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in Friday’s 2-1 loss, the Yankees went 1-for-8 Saturday, 0-for-6 in the first three innings.
“Our goal is create traffic; there’s going to be times we break through,” Boone said. “But really, for a few weeks now, we haven’t had those big outburst games necessarily.”
The Yankees, who on Sunday will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season, finished with four hits Saturday.
In the eighth and ninth innings Wednesday, when they scored four runs to beat the Mariners, and the first inning Thursday, when they scored four runs, the Yankees had a sequence in which they went 7-for-14 with four two-run homers. Since then, they have managed one run in 25 innings and have gone 13-for-85 (.153).
What’s up with the Yankees’ sudden hitting woes? “That’s a good question. You should ask the hitting coach or some of the other guys. I’m the backup catcher,” Austin Romine said with a smile. “My job is to catch, I really don’t know. All I know is baseball’s a long season and sometimes this stuff happens. I think it’s a small blip. You can’t dwell on it too much.”
Righthander Wilmer Font (1-3), who spent the majority of the season in the bullpen before making his first start June 8 and has been gradually stretched out, allowed three hits in 5 2⁄3 innings. Font’s previous start was last Sunday in the Bronx, when he allowed one run and four hits in 4 2⁄3 innings.
Gray (5-5) allowed a run in the first and two in the second, then slammed the door, at one point retiring 15 straight. No. 9 hitter Willy Adames snapped the streak in the seventh with an opposite-field homer down the rightfield line that just cleared the wall. His second homer of the season made it 4-0.
Gray allowed four runs and six hits in 6 2⁄3 innings, walking one and striking out seven.
“I wasn’t sharp early,” he said. “Any time as a starter you give up a three-spot in the first two innings, it’s an uphill climb from there.”
Especially Saturday. Four relievers followed Font to finish off the Yankees, who put one runner in scoring position after the third.
“As hitters, we’re not coming up in the big situations,” said Didi Gregorius, who had two hits. “And if we hit it hard, it’s right at somebody. There’s nothing we can do about that. All we can do is try to hit the ball hard.”
The Rays (36-40) did that from the first batter. Kevin Kiermaier led off with a single and, after Matt Duffy struck out, Jake Bauers ripped an RBI double to left.
The Yankees wasted Giancarlo Stanton’s leadoff double in the second and Romine’s leadoff double in the third. In between, the Rays scored twice in the bottom of the second. C.J. Cron fell behind 0-and-2 before lining a 2-and-2 fastball to left for a double and scored on Daniel Robertson’s double to center. One out later, Adames grounded a single to left for a 3-0 lead.
The Yankees are 41-15 since a 9-9 start but haven’t been able to shake the Red Sox. The AL East standings, however, aren’t a concern of Boone’s.
“It says June 23 on the clock,” he said. “We’ll worry about our house. And you do shrug it [the loss] off. I think everyone’s irked after a loss, but we also know in a little bit, we turn the page and really lock in tomorrow, come in here and expect to get a W. But I honestly don’t get caught up in that [standings] right now.”