One night after an unlikely source delivered perhaps the biggest Yankees hit of the season, New York came up short against the Rays in Tampa. There was some excitement when a two-base error brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs, but Brett Gardner flied out to left field for the final out in the Yankees 6-3 loss.
Once again New York missed out on a chance to gain ground in the AL East as the Blue Jays lost 3-2 in Atlanta. The Yankees remain three games back of Toronto with time running out as the magic number to clinch the division is now 16.
The Yankees knew they’d need a lift from their bullpen to win Tuesday as right-hander Adam Warren was on a pitch count as he transitions back into the starting rotation. He completed four innings allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out four. He threw 65 pitches, 41 for strikes.
Nick Rumbelow came on in the fifth inning with Rays on the corners and one out, in relief of James Pazos. He was able to escape the jam and preserve the Yankees slim one-run lead for the time being with back-to-back strikeouts of Steven Souza and Evan Longoria. Rumbelow retired Longoria swinging on a changeup to end the inning, but wouldn’t fare as well when he was sent back out for the sixth inning. He allowed three hits to the next four batters, including an absolute moonshot off the bat of Nick Franklin, which was his first home run of the season and put the Rays ahead for good.
While Joe Girardi obviously can’t just bring Dellin Betances in to every close game–though he had Betances warming up late in Monday’s game, which would’ve been the first time all season he’s appeared in three consecutive games had he entered–it is perhaps a little curious that Rumbelow was given such a high leverage spot Tuesday. Another option might’ve been Justin Wilson, but he had pitched on two of the past three days. Chasen Shreve probably would’ve been the choice about a month ago, when his ERA was 2.01 after his August 11th outing, which was his last clean outing before Tuesday. In his previous 13 games, Shreve had a 4.22 ERA in 10 2/3 innings while allowing 14 hits, 12 walks, and batters were hitting .318/.464/.523 against him. Shreve’s performance of late and Rumbelow’s poise under pressure in the fifth inning were enough in Girardi’s mind to keep from making a change and ultimately that decision cost the Yankees the lead and the game.
The Yankees, of course, didn’t add to their bullpen at the trade deadline and with Warren going into the rotation have one fewer option to go to now. Girardi can’t be blamed for that, but it certainly doesn’t look good on his part when the bullpen coughs up a lead in a tight game considering Betances has been used multiple times to protect three and four run leads this month. Girardi has generally been praised for his bullpen usage during his tenure with the Yankees, but he hasn’t done much to garner that praise this year. Too often the Yankees have seen games decided with the likes of Rumbelow, Brandon Pinder, and Bryan Mitchell on the mound despite Girardi’s public edict that he’s sticking with the guys who got the Yankees to this position.
Every game is crucial to the Yankees at this point in the season as they chase the Blue Jays in their quest for the division and they need all the help they can get, including from the manager. New York will be back at Tropicana Field for the series finale against the Rays at 7:05 Wednesday as a pair of young right-handers square off as rookie Luis Severino (3-3, 3.35) is set to face Chris Archer (12-11, 2.95 ERA).
(Photo: Kim Klement-USA Today Sports)