Whatever the Yankees have been doing against Tampa Bay this year, it is absolutely, positively, not working.
The Yankees’ mortifyingly bad loss to the Rays on Saturday dropped their 2021 record against the AL East champs to 7-11, and the season series hasn’t even been that close. Tampa Bay has now outscored the Yankees 98-49 after putting a 12-2 whupping on the Bombers in front of a despondent crowd of 41,648 people at Yankee Stadium.
Brandon Lowe stole the show with a powerful explosion, becoming the second opposing player in less than a month to smack three home runs against the Yankees in the same game. Francisco Lindor did the same on Sept. 12 at Citi Field. Even without Lowe’s seven RBI, the Rays still would have had a comfortable win on Saturday. Mike Zunino and Austin Meadows chipped in with home runs as well, and at the end of the day the Rays had 19 hits.
The Yankees’ arms had actually done pretty well against the Rays’ lineup this year. Tampa’s collective stat line before padding it for three and a half hours on Saturday afternoon: .218/.301/.390, well below both their team average and the league average. But with Jordan Montgomery taking the hill on Saturday, making his sixth start of the season against the Rays, they had the formula to beat the lefty.
“I couldn’t throw strikes, got behind in the count, and didn’t execute many pitches,” Montgomery said. “It just sucks.”
In putting a measly two runs on the scoreboard, the Yankees’ bats continued their ineptitude against good pitching, particularly when it’s wearing a TB hat. Coming into Saturday’s massacre, the Rays’ pitching staff had a 2.37 ERA against the Yankees this season, supported by a 1.02 WHIP and 170 strikeouts to 53 walks in 155.2 innings. Starter Shane Baz kept the offense quiet during his abbreviated start, and the Rays’ notoriously deep stable of relievers completely silenced them from the fifth inning on.
“They’re one of the best pitching staffs in the league,” Yankee manager Aaron Boone said, while noting that he doesn’t think there’s any mental block for the team when it comes to Tampa Bay. “A lot of versatility and looks they can give you.”
In last year’s American League Division Series, the Yankees’ season came to an end in similar fashion, scoring just one run in the Game 5 loss that eliminated them. With two losses to open the weekend, the Yankees now have to treat Sunday like an elimination game as well.
If Saturday was any indication — especially Gleyber Torres’ strange and inexplicable lack of hustle on a dropped third strike that sums up the Yankees’ lifeless experience against the Rays in recent years — they can start planning their offseason vacations now.