Breaking a seven-game losing streak was actually pretty easy for the Rays on Sunday.
All they needed to beat the Yankees 8-1 was a solid six-inning start by Erasmo Ramirez, a few early runs, some sloppy play by the pinstripers and some rare no-stress relief work.
Plenty had been going wrong for the Rays (43-41) as they lost seven straight and 11 of 13 games, five in the ninth inning or later.
But Sunday they played a relatively crisp game.
Ramirez walked three in the first two innings and dropped a throw at first that cost him an out, but settled into an impressive groove, allowing only one hit through the first five innings and his only run on a leadoff homer to Alex Rodriguez in the sixth.
The Rays strung together three straight hits to get two runs in the first, James Loney picking up the RBIs. Then they added on in the third when Kevin Kiermaier tripled - thanks to Yankees centerfielder Brett Gardner misjudging his line drive - and Curt Casali followed with a sac fly.
The Rays took advantage of the Yankees botching a bunt play for a run in the fifth. And they benefitted from more Yankees miscues in the eighth, when they scored four runs on two hits, a check-swing infield single by Evan Longoria and a blooper than landed on the rightfield line by Logan Forsythe. The rest came courtesy of two errors (by Jose Pirela on the same play), two walks (one with the bases loaded) and a bit batter. Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. was struck on the right hand and stayed in the game initially then left after the inning.
The Rays continue their challenging stretch of games leading into the All-Star break by heading next to Kansas City, where they will have righthander Alex Colome on the mound Monday night facing Edinson Volquez.
UPDATE, 12:19: Cash said Archer was "a no-brainer" to make the AL All-Star team and was "worthy" of being the starter. ... Longoria needed "a day off his feet" so that is why he is DHing, and thus why neither Butler nor Sizemore is in the lineup. ... Jaso may spend only a few days at Durham (DH today, play LF Monday) as Cash said he "possibly" could join the team in KC. ... Asked about other Rays All-Star candidates, Cash mentioned Kiermaier (defense, speed), Forsythe (versatility), Jepsen (high leverage work), Boxberger (saves). ... Though Casali is playing again today, Cash said Rivera will get the bulk of the work in Kansas City given how much the Royals run.
Here is the Yankees lineup:
Gardner cf Headley 3b A-Rod dh Teixeira 1b McCann c Jones rf Young lf Gregorius ss Drew 2b Nova p
UPDATE, 10:24: A DH day for Evan Longoria, which means no Grady Sizemore or Joey Butler in a lineup struggling for runs:
Cabrera ss DeJesus lf Longoria dh Loney 1b Forsythe 2b Souza rf Kiermaier cf Elmore 3b Casali c Ramirez p
DEVELOPING: Having lost seven straight and 11 of their last 13, the Rays try again to snap their skid today against the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. …
Saturday's game didn't have quite the same script as Friday's saga, but it ended the same way, with the Rays walking off the field in defeat and the Yankees celebrating. Pinch-runner Jose Pirela scored when reliever Brad Boxberger bounced his throw to first after fielding a bunt with no outs in the ninth giving the Yankees a 3-2 win. Mark Teixeira, who hit a three-run game-tying homer on Friday in the Yankees 7-5 12-inning victory, started the winning rally Saturday with a leadoff double against Boxberger. Chris Young walked and the Yankees were merely trying to advance the runners when Boxberger bounced his throw and Jake Elmore's return throw to the plate was too late as Pirela scored from second. The Yankees scored two runs in the first inning off Rays starter Nathan Karns. The Rays scored two runs in the ninth inning off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances on a homer by Steven Souza Jr. The Rays, as has been the case during the skid, didn't do much offensively through the firsy eight innings. They got two hits in the first inning off Yankees starter Michael Pineda, but only three over the next seven innings. But one of those was a fourth-inning single by Souza, ending his personal 0-for-26 hitless streak that included 16 strikeouts. And that paid off when he came up in the ninth, after James Loney led off with a single, and launched a homer to left, his 15th of the season. Karns overall made a solid start, working sevev innings, allowing five hits and two walks but striking out 10. Brett Gardner opened the Yankees first with a single, then Chase Headley followed with another. Alex Rodriguez made it three in a row with a bloop single to right that scored Gardner. Mark Teixeira followed with a sac fly to center that made it 2-0. The Rays will try to snap their season-worst skid on Sunday at 1:05 with Erasmo Ramirez on the mound against Yankees righthander Ivan Nova.
UPDATE, 12:13: Cash said it was just a day off for Forsythe, and he will look to get Cabrera one too. ... The move with Riefenhouser was not ideal, Cash said, but they felt the need to have a long man who could throw up to 100 pitches. ... Geltz apologized for not talking to the media after Friday's loss, saying he was very emotional and needed time to collect his thoughts. ... That said, Geltz said he threw a splitter first pitch to McCann and it was high so he was concerned about falling behind and opted for the fastball that was misplaced. ... Jepsen said the game-tying he gave up to Teixeira was on a changeup and joked he was "pissed" to hear the Yankees TV crew say it was a fastball when it clocked at 88 mph. Said he knew when he threw it it was in a bad place - "like it was in slow motion.''
Here is the Yankees lineup: Gardner cf Headley 3b A-Rod DH Teixeira 1b Jones rf Flores lf Murphy c Gregorius ss Drew 2b Pineda p
UPDATE, 10:37: Souza is back in Rays lineup, Forsythe gets a day off:
The Rays added some depth to their bullpen Saturday by sending down the only reliever who didn't pitch Friday, C.J. Riefenhauser, and calling up LHP Everett Teaford.
To make room for Teaford, who will serve as the long man in the pen, they designated for assignment 1B Marc Krauss, who had been recently acquired from the Angels and sent to Triple-A Durham.
It was a tough draw for Riefenhauser, who grew up 30 minutes from Yankee Stadium and attended many games growing up, was making his first trip in as a big-leaguer, had lots of family on hand and after not getting in to Friday's game was sent down.
Kevin Kiermaier prepares to take a swing during wiffle ball 'Home Run Derby at the MLB Network studios.
Rays David DeDeJesus, Brandon Guyer, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. visited MLB Network's nearby studios on Friday and joined hosts Lauren Shehadi and ex-Ray Cliff Floyd in a little bit of a wiffle ball home run derby.
A strong start tonight will cement Chris Archer's chances to be named Monday to the American League All-Star team.
UPDATE, 6:35: RHP Jake Odorzzi (oblique) will make another rehab start on Monday, likely for the Charlotte Stone Crabs, and then rejoin the Rays on July 11. ... Fifth-round pick OF Joe McCarthy signed. .... Cash said he moved Sizemore to the top of the lineup to "play the hot hand.''' ... Slumping Steven Souza Jr. - 0-for-his-last 24 with 14 Ks - is getting a second day off and will be back in the lineup on Saturday. ... Cash said the number of games the Rays have played and the intensity with which they have played has left the team "a little gassed" but he priased the way they are handling the losing streak.
Yankees lineup: Gardner cf Headlley 3b A-Rod DH Teixeira 1b McCann c Jones rf Young lf Gregorius ss Drew 2b Tanaka p
DEVELOPING: Having lost five straight, 8 of the 10 games on the just-completed homestand and 9 of 11 overall, the Rays are in New York tonight looking to turn things around and have ace RHP Chris Archer on the mound.
The struggling lineup has a different look tonight, with Grady Sizemore at the top as DH, Joey Butler and David DeJesus both in the outfield for the first time and Steven Souza Jr. on the bench. …
The Rays' offense is about to get a much-needed boost.
The Rays will activate 1B James Loney (broken left middle finger) from the disabled list before tomorrow's game at the Yankees, the team announced Thursday. The Rays optioned RHP Preston Guilmet back to Triple-A Durham to make room for Loney.
"He's going to help. There's no doubt about it," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're excited to have him back. To be able to plug our first baseman that we anticipated being with us all year back in the lineup, that'll help."
Loney has been out since he sustained the injury sliding headfirst into third on May 24. In 30 games, Loney was batting .275 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.
ST. PETERSBURG - Not even the return of All-Star pitcher Matt Moore and a somewhat resurgent offense could stop the Rays from losing for the ninth time in 11 games.
Cleveland's No. 9 hitter, Mike Aviles, blasted the first pitch from reliever Xavier Cedeno over the leftfield wall for the go-ahead home run in the Rays' 5-4 loss in 10 innings at Tropicana Field. The defeat secured the first four-game sweep against the Rays (42-39) since September 2009 and the first at home in more than eight years.
Moore had an up-and-down debut in his first start since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in April 2014. The lefty used only 30 pitches to get through his first three hitless innings but needed 50 to get the next five outs, in front of an announced afternoon crowd of 16,353.
Jason Kipnis blooped a single to left that dropped on three converging Rays fielders. Moore added two wild pitches in the inning and gave up a run on Michael Brantley's sac fly. …
Matt Moore warms up before Thursday's start against the Indians.
After 14 months of rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery, Rays left-hander Matt Moore made his return to the mound Thursday against Cleveland with a successful beginning and rough ending. In his first start since having elbow surgery in April 2014, Moore allowed four earned runs off six hits and two walks at Tropicana Field.
Moore started out strong, throwing nine strikes in his 10-pitch first inning. He began with three hitless innings before stumbling in the fourth. Jason Kipnis blooped a single to left that dropped on three converging Rays fielders. Moore added two wild pitches in the inning and gave up a run on Michael Brantley's sac fly.
Moore's debut unraveled in the fifth with Cleveland's two-out rally. Giovanny Urshela singled, and Moore walked No. 9 hitter Mike Aviles. Three consecutive singles and a wild pitch led to three more Cleveland runs and gave the Rays a 4-2 deficit when Moore left.
Moore's fastball hovered around 90 mph and touched 94 - about 2 mph slower than his peak velocity during his 2013 All-Star season.
Moore threw 53 of his 81 pitches for strikes. He struck out four batters.
UPDATE, 11:15: RF Steven Souza Jr. isn't in the lineup today, as manager Kevin Cash wanted to give him a day off. The rookie is in an 0-for-23 slump. ... Cash called the Rays' recent offensive struggles a "perfect storm" of slumping offense and standout opposing pitching. That's why the Rays haven't had a base runner through the first five innings of three consecutive games. ... 1B James Loney (broken finger) is scheduled to be reevaluated today after his rehab start last night for Class-A Port Charlotte. Cash said Loney could rejoin the Rays this weekend in New York.
In other injury news, OF Desmond Jennings said his knee is pain-free after having arthroscopic surgery last month. He hasn't yet been cleared for baseball activities but said he hopes to begin playing rehab games by August.
Matt Moore is understandably excited about getting back on the mound for the Rays in his return from Tommy John surgery.
With less than 24 hours until his first major league start in 14 months, LHP Matt Moore is understandably excited about getting back on the mound for the Rays in his return from Tommy John surgery.
"Ten out of 10," Moore said of his excitement level.
Moore said he plans to watch a few innings of tonight's game against the Indians before heading home. Because Moore's first pitch will be at 12:10 tomorrow afternoon, Moore said he might have to go for a jog tonight to tucker himself out and fall asleep early.
Aside from concerns over sleep, Moore said he has no real concerns after a relatively problem-free rehab.
"It feels right," said Moore, a 2013 All-Star. "Things are feeling pretty good right now."
Manager Kevin Cash wouldn't say what sort of pitch count Moore will have in his season debut but said the Rays will be cautious with him.
"We'll be very smart with Matt Moore through this start and probably many more," Cash said.
Alex Colome (3-3, 4.50) will start for the Rays in what could be his last (or second to last) start before Jake Odorizzi returns, possibly taking Colome’s spot in the rotation.
UPDATE, 5 p.m.: 1B James Loney (broken finger) will continue his rehab assignment tonight for Class-A Port Charlotte by playing first base tonight. Manager Kevin Cash said he could return to the Rays' lineup as soon as this weekend.
RHP Preston Guilmet and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser are both in the clubhouse after being called up from Triple-A Durham after last night's game.
DEVELOPING: After recording five hits in the last two games, the Rays will try to find some offense tonight when they host the Indians in the third game of a four-game series.
RHP Alex Colome (3-3, 4.50) will start for the Rays in what could be his last (or second to last) start before RHP Jake Odorizzi returns, possibly taking Colome's spot in the rotation. Cleveland will start RHP Carlos Carrasco (9-6, 4.16). …
The Tampa Bay Rays head into the 2015 season with Evan Longoria, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and numerous new faces, including manager Kevin Cash and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Can they upend the Orioles in the highly competitive AL East? Come here to follow Rays news at Tropicana Field and beyond.