Yankees pick up against Tampa Bay exactly where they left off, having to re-watch Rays postseason victories and with loss

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Kristie Ackert, New York Daily News
·4 min read
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TAMPA — The Yankees stood on the third base line, most with their arms crossed and looking impatiently at the large video board over the left-field stands. On that jumbotron in Tropicana Field, flashed their nightmare ending from 2020. The Rays beating them in the regular season and winning the American League East and then again the highlights of them beating the Bombers in the AL Division Series, ending their season yet again in disappointment.

It did not get much better for the Yankees after the Rays raised their division and AL pennants and the game started.

Corey Kluber looked flat and got chased early. Coming off a day off, the Bombers, who were without Aaron Judge for the second straight game, looked sluggish as they lost 10-5 to their division rivals Friday afternoon.

The Rays (3-4) won eight out of 10 regular season games against the Yankees (3-4) last season and then took three in the best-of-five ALDS. The Yankees were without Judge, who has soreness in his left side, and Gio Urshela, who was scratched an hour before the game because of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, which the team and traveling party members were able to receive Wednesday night at the Stadium.

Most of the Yankees that were left healthy looked sluggish and sloppy Friday. Aaron Hicks hit his first homer of the season, a two-run shot in the third and Giancarlo Stanton drove in the other two runs with a chopped single. Defensively, the Yankees struggled with DJ LeMahieu making a rare error and defensive lapses almost around the field.

Most concerning, however, was Kluber’s struggles.

Kluber was charged with five runs, three earned, on five hits and two walks. The righty struck out three in 2.1 innings of work. The early exit taxed the bullpen, Kluber was able to work around some sluggish and sloppy defense in the first two innings having allowed just two runs in the second after LeMahieu’s error and a ball that got under Tyler Wade’s glove. He needed just 28 pitches for that.

When the Rays got a second chance at him, however, they barreled him up. Kluber was not fooling anyone the second time through the lineup. The Rays pelted him for four runs on two hits and two walks. He recorded one out on 34 pitches before Boone had to go out and get him.

Kluber threw 62 pitches Friday, 39 for strikes. His velocity topped out with two 92 mile an hour pitches on Friday. Ironically, it came against the Rays, a team that bid on Kluber this winter, but refused to give him over $10 million for this year.

Nick Nelson, the talented young right hander who was so impressive this spring, struggled as well. He came in to replace Kluber and gave up a three-run double to Joey Wendle and an RBI-single to Yandy Diaz. Lucas Luetge, another bright spot of spring, gave up a solo homer to Willy Adames.

The Yankees’ bullpen got a boost before Friday’s game with Justin Wilson being activated off the injured list, where he began the season with shoulder tightness. Still, they had some heavy usage on Wednesday in the 11-inning loss to the Orioles and they play three games here and three more against the Blue Jays in Dunedin without a day off. Michael King, who was spectacular throwing six scoreless in relief of a struggling Domingo German last week, was optioned to the Alternate Site after that performance. He is in Tampa as part of the taxi squad and can be available only in case of injury.

It was a taxing loss for the Yankees and it came at the hands of a team they not only lost to, but they seem to really dislike. Aroldis Chapman began this year serving a two-game suspension for sparking a near brawl with a 101 mph fastball that was dangerously close to the Rays’ Mike Brosseau’s head. It was Brosseau’s homer off Chapman in Game 5 of the ALDS that ended the Yankees season. They celebrated on the field by playing the Yankees signature song, “New York, NY.”

Hicks said before the game that having to stand there and watch the Rays raise their banners was not going to be fun, but it was time to turn the page.

“I mean it’s definitely something that we want to be doing. But they won last year,” Hicks said. “This is a new year and, you know, we expect to go out there and dominate.”

Maybe they can start over on Saturday.