NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Hicks was removed midgame after failing to catch consecutive drives to left that landed for run-scoring doubles in the fourth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 4-2 Friday night to close within 3 1/2 games in the AL East.
“I got benched during the game. That’s rough, especially when all you want to do is produce for your team and,your first two bats are strikeouts,” Hicks said.
Randy Arozarena had an RBI double in the first off Frankie Montas (5-12) to put the Rays ahead to stay.
Wander Franco hit a two-out, two-on drive in the fourth that dropped out of Hicks’ glove along the left-field foul line just in front of the wall. Hicks drooped his head for a few seconds, thinking he caught the ball and the drive was foul, and two runs scored before he reacted and picked up the ball.
“Ball down the line. I thought I caught it. It obviously came out of my glove,” Hicks said. “I thought I was in foul ground and I should have just, as soon as I missed it, got the ball in as fast as possible. I just got beat on the other one.”
Hicks was booed by a sellout crowd of 46,160 that came to Yankee Stadium on a night when former captain Derek Jeter was honored in a pregame ceremony.
“I don’t know how I missed it. It was in my glove and all of a sudden it’s out of my glove,” Hicks said. “Next thing you know, runners are running all around and scoring.”
Arozarena drove the next pitch to left, and Hicks backpedaled a half-dozen steps while taking a bad route on a difficult fly. The ball dropped behind him on the warning track as Franco scored for a 4-0 lead.
“The ball was hit hard right over my head, but if I make the first one we’re out of the inning,” Hicks said.
Rookie Estevan Florial replaced Hicks at the start of the fifth, prompting cheers. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said removing Hicks was not intended to be punitive. The crowd reaction factored in.
“I guess it’s all baked into why I made the decision, feeling like it was having an effect and I just felt like I needed to do it,” Boone said.
In the fourth season of a $70 million, seven-year contract, Hicks struck out twice and is hitting .157 since the All-Star break with two extra-base hits in 122 plate appearances. His season average is .212 with 36 RBIs.
Drew Rasmussen (10-4), reinstated from the paternity list allowed six hits in six scoreless innings, striking out a career-high 10. The Rays have won nine of 10 and 15 of 18.
“It’s the greatest week of my life and that can’t be understated,” Rasmussen said.
Aaron Judge hit an RBI single in the seventh and Kyle Higashioka homered in the ninth off JT Chargois. With Judge on first after a two-out walk, Gleyber Torres flied out to the right-field warning track.
Franco, back from a broken bone in his right hand that had sidelined him since July 9, was 3 for 5 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Montas gave up four runs, nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings, dropping to 1-3 with a 5.94 ERA since he was acquired from Oakland.
“I thought he battled really well. He deserved a better fate,” Boone said. “We didn’t make some plays behind him.”
New York, which lost its second straight, was missing seven regulars from the starting lineup. Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter are hurt, and Josh Donaldson and Jose Trevino are on the paternity list.
Stanton hit an inning-ending groundout as a pinch hitter with two on in sixth and is 4 for his last 39.
Tampa Bay designated infielder Yu Chang for assignment and optioned RHP Yonny Chirinos to Triple-A Durham. Chirinos will remain with the big league club as a member of the taxi squad.
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (Tommy John surgery) pitched one inning for Triple-A Durham on Wednesday and is expected to pitch at Gwinnett on Tuesday. … RHP Shane Baz (sprained right elbow) threw a bullpen session. … LHP Brendan McKay was recalled from Durham and placed on the 15-day IL. He is to undergo Tommy John surgery on Sept. 14 with the goal of returning to pitch in 2024. The procedure will be performed in Los Angeles by Dodgers head team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Yankees: CF Harrison Bader (plantar fasciitis in right foot) could begin a rehab assignment as early as Sunday.
Rays: RHP Corey Kluber (10-7, 4.00 ERA) beat the Yankees last Saturday at Tropicana Field, dominating his former team for seven shutout innings over which he allowed just two hits and walked none.
Yankees: RHP Jameson Taillon (12-4, 3.95 ERA) will try for the third time to earn his 50th win.