Yankees’ clutch hitting goes missing in loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Only because it was the Yankees against the Rays, the outcome of Friday night’s game at Tropicana Field was surprising.

However, strip down the 2-1 loss in front of 27,252 and it wasn’t so difficult to understand.

Six Rays relievers, beginning with Ryne Stanek, who worked the first inning, handcuffed a Yankees lineup that started the evening leading the majors in home runs and OPS.

CC Sabathia’s pitching was effective, but a fielding blunder helped the Rays score their second run in the fifth.

And the Yankees’ recent inability to deliver with runners in scoring position continued when they went 1-for-9.

The loss halted a four-game winning streak for the Yankees (50-23), who entered the evening riding a three-game sweep of the Mariners at home.

A one-out walk to Gleyber Torres in the seventh was followed by Brett Gardner’s ground single to right that advanced Torres to third. Aaron Judge dumped an RBI single into right-center to score Torres and cut the Rays’ lead to 2-1. Giancarlo Stanton’s grounder to the mound moved the runners to second and third with two outs.

With Didi Gregorius due to bat, Rays manager Kevin Cash called for lefty reliever Jose Alvarado, who broke Gregorius’ bat on an inning-ending grounder to the right side.

While Adam Warren warmed in the bullpen, Sabathia struck out Daniel Robertson to start the sixth and was replaced by Warren after giving up a ground single to Carlos Gomez. Willy Adames’ single to center moved Gomez to third. Johnny Field fouled off a 1-2 pitch attempting to bunt for the second out before Warren fell behind the left-handed hitting Kevin Kiermaier, 3-0, and walked him. That brought right-handed hitter Matt Duffy to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.

Warren got ahead of Duffy, 1-2, and then the count went full before Duffy grounded out to Gregorius.

In 5 ¹/₃ innings, Sabathia (4-3) gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits, walked one and struck out four.

Duffy led off the fifth with a ground ball off Sabathia’s glove that rolled toward first base. He chased it and attempted to flip it with the glove to Greg Bird, but the flip was high and Duffy made it to second. Wilson Ramos followed with a chopper to Miguel Andujar that took a strange bounce away from the charging third baseman. Gregorius chased the ball down in the infield dirt to keep Duffy at third.

With runners at the corners, Sabathia’s 3-2 pitch to C.J. Cron chased Stanton to the right-field wall, where he timed a jump perfectly against the fence and denied Cron an extra-base hit. Duffy scored easily from third for a 2-0 lead before Sabathia fed Jake Bauers a 6-3 double-play ball.

None of Sabathia’s first four innings was clean, but he did very well to limit the Rays to a run in the fourth when the game’s first run was scored.

Robertson doubled past Andujar with one out and Sabathia hit Carlos Gomez with a 2-2 pitch. Adames followed with a single to right that scored Robertson and put runners at second and third when Adames moved to second on Stanton’s throw to the plate. Sabathia induced two straight ground ball outs to strand two and keep the deficit at a run.

The Yankees’ recent struggles with runners in scoring position were glossed over by winning five of the previous six games, during which they went 7-for-45 (.155) in the clutch.

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