Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Yankees use five-run inning to further weaken Rays' fading playoff hopes (w/video)

NEW YORK — Once the Rays got past all the novelty Monday about playing as the home team in the Mets stadium against the Yankees as a result of being relocated from the Trop due to Hurricane Irma, they got down to playing what was an important baseball game.

And that didn't go very well, the 5-1 loss to the Yankees further weakening their slimmer-by-the-day chances to get into the American League playoff field, as they dropped to 71-74, and to four games — and six teams — back of the second wild-card.

Playing as the home team before a crowd of 15,327 loudly backing the "visitors,'' the Rays took a 1-0 lead in the second when former longtime Met Lucas Duda drew a walk and scored on a two-out triple by Adeiny Hechavarria.

But the Yankees took control with a five-run fourth inning, taking advantage of several Rays mistakes.

"We lost the game in one inning,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The fourth inning was the game, basically.''

Starter Jake Odorizzi made the first and the last, allowing a four-pitch leadoff walk to Aaron Judge that led to the tying run, then six batters later a three-run homer on a full-count slider to Todd Frazier.

In between were two errors with two outs that extended the inning.

"The fourth inning, I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that,'' Cash said. "Leadoff walk ended by a three-run homer with a lot of mess in between there. Jake threw a lot of pitches that inning; the error didn't help. The catcher's interference didn't help.''

The more egregious error was by Trevor Plouffe, starting at third so Evan Longoria could have a DH day, trying to backhand a fairly routine grounder, allowing Gary Sanchez to score from first and Matt Holliday to reach second.

"I went to backhand it it just went under my glove,'' Plouffe said. "It's a play I make 99 out of 100 times. It's something I worked hard to be is a good defender who makes those routine plays and I just didn't make it tonight.

"No one feels worse about that than I do. You can't give a good team extra outs like that. Nothing I can do about it now but move forward. It's unfortunate. I feel terrible about it. It's definitely a play that needs to be made.''

Then Wilson Ramos contributed with a catcher's interference call that put Jacoby Ellsbury on base, for a major-league record 30th time that way.

"That's on us,'' Cash said. "I don't know what else we can do other than to continue to remind whoever is catching to back up a little bit.''

That brought up Frazier, who crushed a 3-2 Odorizzi slider over the leftfield fence.

"It was a good pitch, he put a good swing on it,'' Odorizzi said. "A 3-2 count, didn't want to walk him. It was a quality pitch, he just went down and got it. At that point there's a lot of pitches thrown prior to that.''

Odorizzi lasted two more batters in what ended up a bad night, even though only one of the runs was earned. He worked 3-2/3 innings, allowing the five runs on three hits and three walks, striking out five while throwing 94 pitches total.

As much as he tried to treat it like a normal start, Odorizzi said it quickly became apparent that being the "home" team in New York would be different.

"Just the fact of getting booed as soon as I stepped out to go on the field, that's a weird kind of a thing,'' he said. "But pretty much anywhere u go there's going to be Yankees fans, especially here.''

The Rays made another costly mistake in the third, getting their first two on then with one out and Longoria up pulling off a double steal, though Kevin Kiermaier over-slid second and got tagged out when his hand came off the bag, and they ended up getting nothing out of the promising opportunity.

"These guys that have that elite speed like KK, a couple guys on their team, when you slide over the bag, it's tough to stop the momentum,'' Cash said. "That's a big play. We have to avoid that from happening. That changed that inning quite a bit."

The rest of the Rays didn't do much at the plate, rapping just eight hits overall and striking out 12 times against Yankees starter CC Sabathia — who was curiously pulled by manager Joe Girardi in the fifth after 88 pitches — and relievers David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.

Cash called the strategy of pulling Sabathia "brilliant" before he went through the lineup a third time and said the Rays will look do that at some point again.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.

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