Yankees and Tanaka implode as rally falls short in sloppy effort

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Presented with a chance Wednesday to move closer to hosting the A’s in the AL wild-card game next week, the Yankees failed miserably on several levels for eight innings.

First, Masahiro Tanaka spit out a three-run lead in the home first and struggled through four-plus innings of a very sloppy 8-7 loss to the Rays in front of 11,325 at Tropicana Field.

Next, Giancarlo Stanton popped out with two runners on and one out in the third and choked a serious scoring threat in the fifth when he banged into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.

Then, trailing by five runs in the ninth inning, the Yankees rallied for four runs and had the potential tying run on third with Miguel Andujar at the plate, but he fouled out on the first pitch to cement the loss.

With their magic number over Oakland to make sure the wild-card game is played at Yankee Stadium at two when the game started, the Yankees had to wait on the A’s-Mariners game last night in Seattle to see if that digit got smaller or stayed the same.

Tanaka is among the group of three starters Aaron Boone is evaluating to start the wild-card game, but he didn’t do much to make a case for that assignment. In four-plus innings, Tanaka gave up four runs (three earned), six hits, walked two and hit a batter. If this was Tanaka’s final start, he finished 12-6.

Neil Walker’s three-run, two-out homer off Ryne Stanek in the first gave Tanaka an early lead, but he gave it right back with three runs in the bottom of the inning. A solo homer by Tommy Pham in the third was given up by Tanaka.

With Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks not starting due to wrist and hamstring issues, respectively, Walker exited the game after getting drilled on the left shin while attempting to bunt for a hit in the eighth inning.

When Brandon Lowe started the fifth with a single, Boone hooked Tanaka and called for Jonathan Holder who issued a one-out walk to Pham in front of C.J. Cron flying out to center. With runners at the corners, Holder retired Austin Meadows on a liner to Brett Gardner in center field and keep it a one-run game.

The first inning took 40 minutes to complete and had a combined six runs scored in it.

McCutchen opened the action with a single to right in front of Stanek striking out Judge and Voit before Stanton walked. Walker staked Tanaka to a 3-0 lead by driving a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence for his 11th homer.

The 3-0 lead vanished quickly in the Rays’ half of the inning when Mallex Smith led off with a single, Matt Duffy walked and Joey Wendle’s single to center plated Smith.

Tanaka rebounded to strike out Pham, but his errant throw to second after fielding Cron’s grounder allowed Duffy to score and moved Wendle to third. Tanaka prolonged the inning by hitting Kevin Kiermaier in front of Willy Adames’ infield single to third that plated Wendle and tied the score, 3-3.

Kiermaier stayed in the game but left later with what was diagnosed as a broken ankle.
A four-run eighth against David Robertson, which included Gary Sanchez’s 18th passed ball of the season, gave the Rays an 8-3 lead heading into the ninth.

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