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Rays fail first test vs. majors-best Yankees

Ryan Yarbrough goes from no-hitter to no longer pitching in the sixth inning, and quickly.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco looks on from the dugout during the bottom of the second inning against the Yankees on Thursday.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco looks on from the dugout during the bottom of the second inning against the Yankees on Thursday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published May 27|Updated May 27

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays may want to hope that manager Kevin Cash was right in dismissing the hype, insisting the first meeting of the season with the majors-best Yankees was not going to be a measuring stick.

Because the Rays certainly didn’t measure up.

What was a scoreless pitcher’s duel through five innings — featuring a Ryan Yarbrough no-hitter — turned quickly into a blowout, New York taking advantage of several Tampa Bay mistakes in rolling to a 7-2 victory Thursday night.

The win improved the Yankees to 32-13 and dropped the Rays to 26-18 and a season-high-matching 5½ games out of first in the AL East but, at least in the home clubhouse, didn’t prove anything else.

“That team’s very beatable, and we know we can beat them,’’ said infielder Taylor Walls. “We’re here. We’re going to be here all year. There’s (18) more games (against them). We’re going to be here.’’

But the Rays are going to have to play better.

Especially defensively, as they made two more errors, giving them nine — and 10 unearned runs — over their past six games; and 29 errors and 32 unearned runs in 44 games overall.

As sharp as Yarbrough was through the first five innings, Yankees starter Nestor Cortes was just as good, allowing only a first-inning single.

And when the Rays sputtered a bit to start the sixth, the Yankees quickly pounced.

Yarbrough hit the leadoff batter, then allowed back-to-back singles for the first run. After Ryan Thompson took over with one out, Walls made a tough play at short, but his errant throw allowed two more to score.

“It happened to us (Thursday),’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve done it to some other clubs. But when you’re in 0-0 ballgames, yeah, it can happen pretty quick. (Aaron) Judge comes up, gets the first run, RBI single, and then that (Walls) play just got away from us a little bit.’’

Walls said he “just kind of lost” his footing after snaring the ball hit in the hole by Miguel Andujar but thought he recovered well.

“I’ve just got to make a better throw,’’ he said. “Maybe I rushed a little just because I knew I stumbled, so it lost me a little bit of time as far as if I were to have my feet up under me. I don’t know. I just felt like my momentum was going away from me. If I catch that and have my feet set clean, I have a lot more momentum going to first and I don’t even think we’re sitting here talking about it.’’

Cash said the play “kind of changed the complexion of the game a little bit,’' with the score going from 1-0 to 3-0. The Yankees added on from there, but the way Cortes was pitching, the Rays couldn’t do much about it, managing just four hits as he took a shutout into the ninth.

“You get that guy one run, we’re going to be in a good spot,’’ Judge said.

Yarbrough pitched well again for the Rays — allowing just a first-inning walk until the rough ending — and credited catcher Mike Zunino for his help. Cash said the Rays were willing to have Yarbrough face Judge, who was hitting leadoff, for a third time, then lefty Anthony Rizzo, before going to the bullpen.

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“It looked like he had everything going really,’’ Cash said.

Yarbrough acknowledged that hitting Matt Carpenter was a bad way to start the sixth, and it got worse with the singles by Marwin Gonzalez and Judge.

“You can kind of like think about it being frustrating the way you end,’’ he said. “But you have to look at it as a whole, the outing, so take things with a grain of salt and take a lot of positives from that.’’

Bigger picture, Yarbrough said, it was just one game.

“We obviously understand they’re a really good team, but we also like where we’re at right now,’ he said. “We still have three games to go (this weekend), 18 more in the season series. You’re not going to win all 19. So we understand it’s going to be a battle but just going to erase it and move on to (Friday).’’

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