S T. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Yankees stood at the third base line and watched the Rays unveil their American League and American League East title posters before Friday’s game, but Aaron Hicks said in As for the Yankees, last year was in the past.
“It’s something we want to do,” Hicks said. “They won last year. THIS IS A NEW YEAR. We hope to go out and dominate ”.
The plan got off to a bad start as the Yankees faced Tampa Bay for the first time this season and were strangled in a 10-5 loss at Tropicana Field to begin a six-game road trip in Florida against two division rivals, the Rays and relocated the Blue Jays.
Corey Kluber was knocked down, the victim of poor infield defense, and the Yankees offense fell silent outside of a four-run quick outburst in the third.
Kluber, in his second start with the Yankees after missing most of the past two seasons, allowed a pair of dirty runs in the second inning and three earned runs in the third.
With Gio Urshela out following a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, DJ LeMahieu was forced to play third, with Tyler Wade second. Both players had difficult second innings. LeMahieu made a pitching error on a Yandy Diaz groundout with one out and Wade let a Joey Wendle ball pass him for a single. He sent Diaz to third and scored on a Willy Adames double on the right wall, just above Clint Frazier’s leaping glove. Brett Phillips followed with a sacrifice fly to center to score Wendle and make it 2-0.
LeMahieu managed to corner Mike Zunino’s tall pop up, diving close to the mound, to end the inning.
The Yankees tied the game for third.
After Rays starter Rich Hill retired the first eight Yankees he faced, Wade reached with an infield single with two outs. Wade would have easily scored on LeMahieu’s double to center field, but had to stay at third when he bounced off the center field wall. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single through the change on the right side of the infield, driving both runners on.
They took the lead a batter later when Hicks pitched a 1-2 pitch to the left seats for his first home run of the season as the Yankees got ahead. 4-2.
It didn’t last long, as Kluber hesitated at the bottom of the entrance.
The first three batters reached, with a single by Randy Arozarena to right field leading a run. Kluber struck out Brandon Lowe but walked Diaz and his day ended after 62 pitches.
Nick Nelson came in and immediately allowed a two-run double to Wendle as the Rays rallied again, 5-4.
The Rays stacked in the fourth against Nelson, who loaded the bases with no out. He struck out Arozarena, but Lowe cleared the bases with a double to left-center field, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 8-4. Diaz followed with a single to score Lowe.
Lucas Luetge lasted three innings as a reliever, saving at least part of the Yankees bullpen.
As the Rays continued to increase their lead, the Yankees’ offense disappeared. After Hicks’ home run, Hill retired the last 10 batters he faced, allowing only the four consecutive hits in the fourth.
It continued a series of successes by the Rays over the Yankees. Tampa Bay won eight of 10 meetings in the regular season and then knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs in five games in the ALDS.