ST. PETERSBURG — You want to talk about a bad day?
Here’s roughly how the Rays Friday went:
Found out starting catcher’s Mike Zunino’s quad strain was severe enough to keep him out more than a month; felt the dropoff immediately as his replacement, rookie Nick Ciuffo, allowed a first-inning run on a passed ball against the Yankees.
Saw a ball carom off the highest catwalk at Tropicana Field for just the fifth time in 22 years, then drop in for a hit that started a two-run Yankees rally.
Got nothing after loading the bases to start the seventh.
Worst of all, they watched uneasily as starter Tyler Glasnow walked off the mound in the sixth inning and was diagnosed initially, and ominously, with right forearm tightness and plans for further evaluation Friday night and Saturday.
Oh, yeah, and they lost 4-3 to the Yankees, seeing their lead in the American League East cut to a half-game, before a loud and divided crowd of 20,846.
Glasnow has been a breakout star and a huge part of the Rays’ early season success, coming into the game leading the majors in wins (six) and ERA (1.47).
Any serious injury, which forearm tightness can be a precursor of, would be a staggering blow.
“I really don’t know what’s going on right now. I feel good. I’m just going to be optimistic,’’ Glasnow said. “It wasn’t a pop or anything crazy. I just felt tightness for a couple pitches, and I felt like I should’ve come out of the game just because it felt pretty tight. … It’s not like there was any pain or anything, it just was this really strange feeling.
“I felt it was better to come out and not chance things. Feeling it for that many pitches is probably a good time to come out.’’
Glasnow was involved in an awkward play in the first inning when he leaped for a throw while covering the plate on a run-scoring passed ball. Later in the inning he seemed to pull up on a grounder toward first, prompting a visit from manager Kevin Cash and head athletic trainer Joe Benge. Cash said what looked to be a knee issue turned out to spasms in his quad.
Glasnow, though, said there no issues until the sixth, when he allowed two singles, then felt the tightness during a five-pitch at-bat to Gleyber Torres that ended with two curveballs for a strikeout, his 92nd pitch of the night.
“Noticed he went to stretch his forearm, that’s not an ideal thing to see a pitcher do,’’ Cash said. “I’m glad that we caught it. Now we just wait and see what people a lot smarter than us tell us.’’
Anyone could tell the game wasn’t going the Rays way, despite the contributions of Austin Meadows (double and home run) in his first game back from the injured list.
The Rays fell behind 2-0, came back to take a 3-2 lead, gave it right back and wasted several prime chances, most glaringly having the bases loaded with no outs in the seventh, as they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
“Yeah, there were a couple missed opportunities in there,’’ Cash said, as his team fell to a majors-worst 1-7 in one-run games.
From the start, the Rays (23-14) were not sharp.
DJ LeMahieu reached when third baseman Yandy Diaz fielded his grounder and bounced the throw. Glasnow walked the next batter. A Gary Sanchez single loaded the bases, then a clear cross-up between Glasnow and Ciuffo led to a run on what was scored a passed ball. Another single by Torres made it 2-0.
“I was looking change, he threw fastball,’’ Ciuffo said. “He throws it hard, and I couldn’t react. It was a tough play. All I can do is battle and play wherever I am. If it’s here, it’s here. If it’s Durham, it’s Durham. I give it my all either way.''
The Rays came back in the fifth off Domingo German. Willy Adames doubled, and Meadows showed he just might pick up where he left off when straining his right thumb April 20, lacing a homer to right. A 427-foot homer by former Yankee Ji-Man Choi made it 3-2.
But then the Yankees got a big break. A popup by Sanchez struck the A-ring catwalk — the highest of the four at 181 to 194 feet above the field — and dropped in between Adames at short and Diaz. It was only the fifth fair ball to hit that ring in 22 years of play at Tropicana Field.
“We lost the ball,’’ Adames said. “It bounced around, and it came back down. I guess that’s what happens at the Trop. After that play, I’m like that’s unbelievable. To get a hit like that you have to be lucky. And unlucky to not be able to catch it.’’
Singles by Clint Frazier and —after Glasnow’s departure following a strikeout — Miguel Andujar loaded the bases, and Gio Urshela’s single off Emilio Pagan scored two.
Sure, it’s only May. But there were some reasons, and a few words, to make it feel like a big series between the top two teams in the division.
First, because it was the first time the teams had met this season, the Rays rolling off to one of the best starts in the majors, and the Yankees, despite a slew of injuries, staying right with them.
“It’s just going to be a huge, huge series for us to develop that mind-set like, “Hey, we can beat these guys,’ and we will,’’ Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said Friday afternoon. “But it will be huge this weekend to prove that early and often.’’
Second, because they’re about to play a lot. Three games this weekend here, three more next weekend in New York. Of the 19 games between them, 17 are being played less than 10 weeks. After July 18 they play only twice more, and not until Sept. 24-25.
“Six games in eight, it’s going to be a challenge,’’ Cash said before the game. “I mean, they’re good. I don’t know, if we went 6-0 does that mean we are that much better? If we go 0-6 are we that much worse? I try not to get too far ahead of that.’’
The way Friday went, they have a lot of catching up to do.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.