NEW YORK — With an ominous forecast for a day-long downpour, the logistical issues of a makeup game with the Yankees seemed to be the Rays’ biggest trouble Sunday.
Given the lack of a mutual off-day for the teams, there was the potential to have to come back to New York on Oct. 6, the lone day between the end of the regular season and the start of the best-of-three, one-site wild-card series, with the location potentially determined by that game.
Boy, would that have been a better problem to have.
Instead, the teams waited through a nearly two-hour delay to begin play, and a brutal start by Luis Patino quickly turned that into a waste of time.
The Rays went into a deep hole early and lost big for the second straight game, this time 10-4, with the fallout including a shuffle of their pitching staff and plans.
Patino and reliever Calvin Faucher were sent to Triple-A, and a new Monday starter was needed after Ryan Yarbrough, who was slated to face the Blue Jays, had to work five innings Sunday. Plus they need to replace unvaccinated reliever Brooks Raley, who can’t play in Canada. Cooper Criswell, a July waiver claim from the Angels, is being called up to start; Javy Guerra and Kevin Herget will join the bullpen.
The back-to- back losses to the Yankees dropped the Rays to 78-60 and 5 ½ games out of first place in the American League East with 24 to play. And the greater focus now appears to be on the Rays’ standing in the wild-card race.
They are in a virtual tie with the Mariners for the top spot (and the home series that goes with it), and just a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays, whom they play five times over the next four days. (And then again four more times at home, Sept. 22-25.)
“We’ve still got to get after it every night, we’ve still got some tough series coming up, we’ve still got to compete and we’ve still got to keep ourselves in the fight,” catcher Christian Bethancourt said.
“We’re not only in the fight for the division, but we also lead in the wild card and we cannot let that go. So we’ve got to hold on to it and try to win series. … We have enough of a good team to get back on track and win some more series.”
At the least, the two losses and the combined 20-7 score showed that the Yankees, who had been in an extended skid primarily due to a slumping offense, still have the capability to put up big numbers. The Rays had only given up 10-plus runs in back-to-back games once before this season, to the Angels.
Count Rays manager Kevin Cash among those not surprised.
“The lineup is too good. The pitching is too good. They hit a glitch at a part of season,” he said. “I feel like we’ve played them well here as of late, obviously not the last two days. But they’re a very good team.”
Patino certainly helped them show it. He got only four outs, giving up three-run homers to Gleyber Torres (in the first) and Giancarlo Stanton (in the second), and a solo shot to Torres, allowing nine runs total on five hits and four walks.
“The walks certainly played a role in it,” Cash said. “He just didn’t have very good stuff and they were kind of all over everything he was throwing. So it snowballed pretty quick for him.”
Noting Patino’s ratio of 39 strikes to 31 balls, Bethancourt said command was the biggest problem. Patino said pitch selection also was an issue, and the walks made it worse.
“It wasn’t my day today,” he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
Down 3-0 in the first and 10-1 after two, the Rays didn’t have much to be happy about except for the strong work from Yarbrough, who kept the pitching staff from being in worse shape.
Cash, for what it’s worth, said of the weekend: “I’m really not that disappointed. It’s a long season. (The Yankees are) a really good team. We’re a good team. They beat us up the last two days here.”
And, Bethancourt said, they’re not ready to concede the division title to the Yankees just yet.
“If they lose a couple, we win a couple we’re back within one or two games,” he said. “I feel like that’s going to be (like that) all the way to the last day of the season. So it’s going to be exciting.”
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