The Yankees are not engaging in one of those build ’em up and knock ’em down ruses we see in sports. The team’s fear of the Rays is real.
Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t playing around when he welcomed the Tampa Bay Rays to Yankee Stadium for what was built as a “payback series” for the whooping the Yankees received in Tampa last week.
“Obviously, they are a very good team. They have become a really good team, and we need to actually beat them to get where … we want to get to,” were the words spoken by Tanaka before he surrendered five runs over four innings, prompting a 6-3 loss in the series opener at the Stadium Tuesday night.
The payback effort failed again last night when the Rays beat the Yanks again, producing only an irate Gerrit Cole after he was lifted by Aaron Boone after 6 2/3 brilliant innings with the Yankees ahead 3-2.
To viewers, it appeared Cole yelled something to Boone on the mound before heading back to the dugout, and there he yelled something else while covering his mouth with his glove.
Spinning it later, a still flustered Cole told nj.com: “He made the move before he even got out there, so it didn’t really matter whatever I said to him on the mound,” Cole said. “And whatever I said to him in my glove, we’ll leave it at that.”
Yankees: If only We Could (Leave It At That)
The Rays have what they’ve always had – a solid and forever young pitching staff, an active team payroll of $19.5 million that is seventeen million less that Gerrit Cole’s 2020 salary.
Yankee enablers will point to a Yankees lineup that is minus Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu, all out with injuries. But thirty trips by players to the IL last year did not prevent the team from winning 103 games – no excuses, please.
If, as it looks now, the Rays indeed have the Yankees number, the shortened 2020 season suddenly takes a new turn.
Yankees Swept Again By The Rays
Bolstered in today’s game by home runs from Gio Urshela and Luke Voit (his tenth of the season), the Yankees were cruising along with a 4-3 lead going into the sixth inning. Only to see the lead evaporate when the Rays came back with five runs against Adam Ottavino and Luis Avilan.
Humiliated again, today’s final score: Tampa Bay 10 New York 5.
In effect, the Rays are doing what the Yankees are supposed to be doing, and for now, the team in the Bronx has no answer to combat their peskiness.
Play between the two teams is quickly ascending to a full-fledged rivalry that is on its way to replacing a dulled Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
The Only Team That Can Beat The Yankees Is The Yankees
The irony, unlike two evenly-matched teams fielded by the Sox and Yanks at the height of their rivalry, on paper, the Yanks should be crushing the Rays instead of the other way around.
Still, the only team that can beat the Yankees is the Yankees. Five hits on Tuesday, four on Wednesday, do not add up to wins against any team in the league.
Nor does a pissed off Gerrit Cole for being lifted, or an Aaron Judge still puzzled by the team placing him on the IL, not eligible to return until Saturday.
How “Deep” (Not Roster Depth) Are These Yankees
“You’re only as good as your record says you are”, Joe Maddon once said.
And so it is the Tampa Bay Rays (17-9) leave Yankee Stadium with home and home sweeps of the Yankees (16-9).
That’s enough to propel them into sole possession of first place in the AL East, a division that is supposed to belong to the Yankees.
Coming up for the Yankees is a weekend series against the slowly awakening New York Mets at Citi Field. Neither Gerrit Cole nor Jacob deGrom will pitch in the series.
With the 2020 season reaching the halfway point, there’s pressure on the Yankees to reverse the trend of a four-game losing streak while Tampa Bay returns home to face the Toronto Blue Jays (11-11).
How deep are the Yankees, and I’m not talking about roster depth? Fending off the Mets and rallying the troops to face the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves after that is a challenge the team has met before.
The other challenge facing the Yankees, however, is more daunting, and in this shortened season, the teams face each other only twice more with two games at Yankee Stadium September 1 and 2.
Remarkably, for the Yankees, it’s still all about payback.