Rays Open Homestand By Coming Up Short Against Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays opened a crucial nine-game homestand with a 4-3 loss to Yankees at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

The loss, coupled with Boston’s game against visiting Toronto being postponed due to rain, dropped the Rays two games behind the Red Sox in the American League East.

The Rays had their chances, especially early when they could not cash in on opportunities against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery (five shutout innings, 102 pitches).

Still, they had chances in the late innings only to come up a run short.

Trailing 4-2, the Rays made it a one-run game in the eighth on a run-scoring double by Randy Arozarena. They threatened for more against veteran reliever Zach Britton, but after Brandon Lowe’s infield single put runners on the corners with one out, Mike Zunino grounded into a double play.

“I thought we were close multiple times in getting something big going, but they just made their pitches,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose team fell to 8-6 against their division rivals, including 3-4 at home.

Aroldis Chapman picked up his 19th save for the Yankees. After retiring the first two batters in the ninth, Chapman walked Wander Franco, who battled back from an 0-2 hole. That brought up Nelson Cruz, who was ahead in the count 3-0 before striking out to end the game.

Cruz went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a walk in his first game at the Trop as a member of the Rays.

“We certainly had the right guys up there,” said Cash. “What an at-bat by Wander, a pretty veteran at-bat for a guy that never faced Chapman. We did some good things, but just came up a little short.”

The Yankees, who had the services of Aaron Judge (COVID) for the first time since July 11, took a 3-0 lead by scoring once in the fifth and twice in the sixth off Rays starter Shane McClanahan.

“I could have made some better pitches, executed a little better,” said McClanahan, in referencing a sixth inning when the first three batters reached with the third batter, Gio Urshela, delivering a two-run double.

Brandon Lowe hit a two-run homer, his 22nd, in the sixth to make it 3-2.

Ryan LaMarre’s home run in the eighth provided what proved to be critical insurance for the Yankees.

The Rays’ homestand has two more games against the Yankees followed by a three-game weekend series versus the Red Sox. The Mariners come to town for three starting Monday night.

First things first as the series with New York resumes Wednesday night (7:10) when Michael Wacha takes the mound for the Rays against Nestor Cortes.

Manuel Margot returned (left hamstring strain, out since July 5) to the lineup and batted leadoff while playing right field. He went 1-for-4 with a single and walk. He was caught attempting to steal third with one out in the first and Nelson Cruz batting.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.