Sonny Gray deserved better. That’s been the case in quite a few of his starts since joining the Yankees, and again Tuesday night. Receiving little run support, Gray made just a couple of mistakes, but they cost him in a 2-1 loss to the “host” Rays in front of 21,024 at Citi Field.
The Yankees (78-66) had three hits as their three-game winning streak ended, and they fell four games behind AL East-leading Boston, which routed Oakland.
“We’ve been talking about that,” Starlin Castro said of Gray’s lack of offensive support. “Every time he pitches, we don’t score. He pitched a great game today.”
Gray allowed a leadoff homer in the first inning to Kevin Kiermaier and didn’t allow another run until Adeiny Hechavarria blasted a first-pitch fastball to left-center to snap a 1-1 tie with one out in the eighth.
Gray, who fell to 9-10 with a 3.17 ERA, including 3-5, 2.66 with the Yankees, allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings and struck out nine.
“Most of the time when you give up two runs in eight innings,” Joe Girardi said, “you win the game.”
Except that has kind of been par for the course for Gray, whose offense has produced a total of four runs in those five losses with the Yankees. The righthander, however, praised his defense and ultimately blamed himself.
“We made a ton of unbelievable plays to keep them at one run early in the game and late in the game,” Gray said.
Of the fastball Hechavarria hit out, he said: “I threw that same pitch numerous times tonight and got people out. I’m going to challenge guys, and I just got beat. I got beat at a point in the game where you can’t get beat. It was a deciding factor in winning or losing that ballgame.”
Rays lefthander Blake Snell, 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA his last six starts, allowed one run and two hits in five innings plus. Four relievers closed it out, with Alex Colome pitching a perfect ninth for his 44th save.
The Yankees did score first. Aaron Judge, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, drew a one-out walk in the first and went to second on Gary Sanchez’s groundout. Matt Holliday worked the count full before sending a laser to left that a sliding Corey Dickerson couldn’t quite grab. The double brought in Judge to give Gray a lead before he threw a pitch.
However, on that first pitch, a 94-mph fastball, Kiermaier tied it, driving it to right-center for his 12th homer. It was the 14th homer allowed in 24 starts this season by Gray, with No. 15 to come seven innings later. Lucas Duda followed with a double, but Gray stranded him.
Gray cruised after the Duda double, not allowing another hit until Wilson Ramos doubled with one out in the fifth. Brad Miller sliced a single to left, too hard for Ramos to score, instead giving the Rays runners at the corners with one out. Gray took advantage of the break, striking out Hechavarria on a slider in the dirt and Kiermaier, also on a slider, to end the threat.
Gray would retire nine straight after the Miller single but the Yankees mounted few threats, not putting another runner in scoring position after Holliday’s first-inning double.
Rookie outfielder Clint Frazier went 0-for-2 in his return from the disabled list, driving one to the track in right in the fifth that Steven Souza Jr. chased down.
“(Gray) pitched amazing tonight,” Frazier said. “It’s not what you want, but it happens. Their pitchers did a good job making sure we didn’t put runs on the board. What can you do? It’s difficult, but he pitched a heck of a game.”