Yankees Embarrassing Weekend in Tampa Bay

Chasen Shreve

That was bad. It wasn’t as bad as losing 9-1 at home to the Marlins to fall to 8-8 on the season, but it was still bad. So much for the 2018 Yankees haven’t loss three straight games. The Yankees were swept at the Trop by the under-.500 Rays, and their four-game loss column lead in the AL East is now two.

But it wasn’t just that the Yankees were swept by a team, whose starting lineup features not a single player that would start on the Yankees. It was how they were swept in the three games. Here is a breakdown of the embarrassment that was the weekend in Tampa Bay.

The Rays went with a bullpen game against the Yankees and it worked as the six pitchers they used combined to allow one run in the Yankees’ 2-1 loss. It wasn’t that the Yankees didn’t have baserunners in the game, as they had five hits and six(!) walks and were able to plate a single run. The Yankees left two on in the first, two in the second, one in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth, two in the seventh and one in the ninth. They went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. In the ninth, it looked like they might produce some late-game magic when Miguel Andujar singled to lead off the inning, but Gleyber Torres flew out and Brett Gardner grounded into a game-ending double play.

CC Sabathia was in bend-but-don’t-break mode all night, as he put 11 runners on in 5 1/3 innings. He gave up the two runs though only one was earned thanks to an error by himself. It was another game in which Sabathia pitched well enough to win and didn’t as he now has four wins this season despite pitching to a 3.18 ERA.

It was a frustrating one-run loss with the Yankees leaving runners on base in nearly every inning, but it was one of those games that happens over the course of a 162-game season. Even against the Rays.

Prior to this season, Wilmer Font pitched to an 11.57 ERA over seven-career innings in the majors between 2012-2017. Earlier this season, he put 19 runners on base and allowed 13 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings for the Dodgers and was traded to the A’s. Then for the A’s, he put 17 runners on base and allowed 11 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings and was traded to the Rays. Last week against the Yankees, he “started” and allowed one earned runs over 4 1/3 innings. On Saturday, he “started” against the Yankees again and shut them out over 5 2/3 innings. So Wilmer Font, the 28-year-old journeyman, has pitched to the following line in his last two appearances, both against the Yankees: 10.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 0.87 ERA, 0.874 WHIP. There’s nothing to say.

I think I have made it clear how it’s hard to like Sonny Gray when someone so inconsistent needs to be babied as if he were an actual ace. Whether it’s whining his way to a personal catcher or talking about how “good” his stuff was on a night in which he got rocked, Gray is hard to root for. Except I have to root for him because he’s part of the Yankees rotation, and when he sucks, the Yankees lose.

Gray sucked again on Saturday. Sure, it didn’t matter if he gave up one run or four like he actually did since the offense had no answer for Font for the second time in six days, but it was frustrating to watch the guy the Yankees traded for to slot behind either Luis Severino or Masahiro Tanaka pitch poorly yet again.

Gray put the team behind right away in the first after giving up a leadoff single and one-out double. Then in the third, he gave up two more. He settled down to retire 15 straight to get Yankees fans thinking that this start might not have been so bad, but then he gave up a solo home run on an 0-2 pitch for good measure before being removed.

Here’s how wildly inconsistent Gray has been this season:

4 IP, 1 ER
6 IP, 3 ER
3 IP, 6 ER
3.1 IP, 5 ER
4.2 IP, 3 ER
6 IP, 2 ER
6 IP, 2 ER
5 IP, 5 ER
8 IP, 1 ER
3.2 IP, 5 ER
6 IP, 1 ER
8 IP, 0 ER
5 IP, 4 ER
5 IP, 2 ER
6.2 IP, 4 ER

Every time you think he might have turned the corner, there’s another bad start around that corner. Yes, he’s better on the road (3.28 ERA) than at home (7.22 ERA) though he wasn’t very good on the road on Saturday and he wasn’t good once again with his personal catcher. But I guess it didn’t matter since you can’t win if you don’t score, and the Yankees were shut out for the second time this season, and had scored one run in the first 18 innings of the series against the following pitchers: Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Sergio Romo, Wilmer Font and Jonny Venters.

One run and two losses in two games against the Rays. I knew the Yankees were going to win on Sunday, avoid getting swept and avoid losing three straight for the first time this season, so I wagered on the Yankees.

Domingo German immediately made me regret my decision when he allowed two runs and three extra-base hits in the first inning. But Miguel Andujar answered with a three-run home run in the second and I figured I was right with my expectations for the game. German quickly destroyed the idea of a shutdown inning with a leadoff home run to tie the game in the bottom of the second, and in the third, he gave up three more runs to put the Yankees behind 6-3.

In the fourth, the Yankees had first and second and no one out, but Aaron Hicks struck out and Andujar grounded out with the runners moving to second and third on the ground out. That brought up Neil Walker, who was inexplicably batting above Torres in the order. Walker saw five pitches in the at-bat, didn’t swing at any of them and struck out looking to end the inning.

Because Walker has the best first name in baseball, I avoided getting on him earlier in the season when he deserved any and all criticism. (He was hitting .164/.219/.194 with two doubles and four RBIs on the season on April 27.) Then he went off over the next four weeks, batting .281/.379/.456 with two home runs and 10 RBIs as the catalyst in every Yankees rally, and it looked like the guy who the Yankees paid $4 million to for the season had been a product of a late spring training arrival.

But since May 27 and the return of Greg Bird, which has kept Walker on the bench, Walker is batting .094/.171/.094 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs. No one can blame Walker for being a regular his entire career and then struggling in his new role of utility infielder, but that’s all he will be on the Yankees at this point, barring a series of injuries. He isn’t going to play over Torres or Andujar, and if Bird continues to be an automatic out, it’s more likely that Brandon Drury will get a regular shot at first base over Walker. Walker either needs to adapt to his infrequent playing time, or unfortunately, I will lose having a Neil on the Yankees.

A Brett Gardner walk and back-to-back doubles from Didi Gregorius and Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth cut the Yankees’ deficit to 6-5, and Stanton hit a leadoff home run the eighth to tie the game. And it would stayed tied until the 12th inning.

I thought things would be different with Aaron Boone as Yankees manager. I thought he would throw out the idiotic strategy of using relievers in set innings and only using your closer in a save situation. But Boone has been identical to Joe Girardi with his in-game managing, creating set innings for his relievers and using the most expensive reliever in the league to pitch to a statistic.

After using his entire bullpen aside from Aroldis Chapman and Chasen Shreve, Boone went with Shreve for the bottom of the 12th because the Yankees didn’t have a lead of three runs or less. It didn’t matter to Boone that he would need to get through the 12th for the Yankees to have a chance to ever getting the lead in the game, so he went with Shreve. The Yankees bullpen had pitched eight scoreless innings in relief of German, and all it took was one pitch from Shreve to stop that streak and end the game.

I don’t think Shreve will be a Yankee as of Monday night in Philadelphia. He now has a 5.19 ERA and 1.654 WHIP and in his last eight innings, he’s allowed 18 baserunners and nine earned runs, including four home runs. I get that someone has to be the 25th man on the roster, but there has to a better option.

I will always be thankful to Shreve for (along with Dellin Betances) keeping the 2015 season afloat while Andrew Miller was hurt. After Shreve got knocked around at the end of 2015, I never thought he would still be a Yankee nearly three years later. He had a good run, but it’s time to move on from him.

Aside from the three actual losses, the worst part of the weekend was that the Yankees will now be without Gary Sanchez for their upcoming series against the Phillies, Red Sox and Braves and likely beyond that. All the idiots who wanted Austin Romine to start over the best catcher in the world now have their wish, and they will all be regretting it by the end of the week.

The weekend in Tampa Bay wasn’t the lowest point of the season, but it was still an embarrassment.