ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Another loss that can be put into the “frustrating” column.
A ground ball that looked like a failed fielder’s choice that should have tied the game with the bases loaded resulted in the game’s final out. Gary Sánchez didn’t kick it into high-gear until too late, and a 4-6-3 groundout decided Monday’s contest.
“I think I could have done a better job there, for sure,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “I hit the ball well. When the play developed and I saw the runner safe at second base, I tried to beat the play, but I couldn’t.”
The Yankees hung around all night, but never seemed able to find the breakthrough hit. Sánchez’s lack of hustle compounded poor decision-making that saw Didi Gregorius sacrifice bunt ahead of Giancarlo Stanton. He got the bunt down, but it put runners on second and third so the simple play was to give Stanton the intentional pass.
“Just the lefty-lefty matchup there and knowing they’d walk [Stanton], but what’s the tradeoff?” Boone said of his thinking. “Do you like the bases loaded, one out with Hicks from the right side? We did, and we liked getting Alvarado off the mound in a fielding situation as well. We got the situation that we wanted. If Didi doesn’t get it done, they can go to the righty for Stanton.”
Aaron Hicks, who came into the night .067/.304/.133 (1 wRC+) with the bases loaded, grounded into a 5-2 force out at home plate because of the bases loaded situation created by Boone’s decision. The next batter, Sánchez, ripped one to the second baseman Daniel Robertson, who flipped to shortstop Willy Adames in an attempt to force Hicks at second base. Hicks beat Adames to the bag, and Sánchez only reached a full sprint once he saw this. So, like a double play ball, Adames fired to Jake Bauers at first base for the 27th out.
That wasn’t the only play that led fans and broadcasters alike to question Sánchez’s effort. In the first inning, Bauers scored on a passed ball… from second base. It looked like a cross-up: Luis Severino threw a slider and Sánchez expected a fastball. It clanked off some combination of the catcher’s glove and shin guard and rolled more than three-quarters of the way up the third-base line. Bauers never slowed down, and Sánchez’s jog after the ball saw the former round third hard and head for the plate. Gary realized what was happening too late, and his throw to Severino covering hit the runner in the back.
In the dugout after this, Sánchez and Severino were seen jawing at each other over the root of the cross-up. Severino walked away after a few seconds of heated discussion.
“I asked [Sánchez], and he told me that he didn’t see the ball,” Severino said. “For me, it seemed like he didn’t see it.”
“We happened to cross up on the signs there, but like I said, I should have gotten that ball quicker there,” Sánchez said through Marlon Abreu.
Severino was not on his game at all. Bauers roped a hanging slider for a three-run home run off him in the fifth inning. Sánchez hit an RBI single to pull the Yankees within one in the sixth, but Robertson proceeded to hit Severino’s first pitch of the very next frame for a solo homer into the first row in right field. Jesús Sucre and Matt Duffy each added RBIs off of Chad Green, but the runs were charged to Severino. He finished allowing a season-high seven runs.
Stanton had one of his best days at the plate so far in his young Yankees career, with four hits, one walk, two RBIs and two runs scored. The only other Yankee with multiple hits was Miguel Andújar, with two.
Adam Warren and A.J. Cole each threw a scoreless inning of relief. With Giovanny Gallegos in the bullpen, could we see Cole in some higher-leverage spots? Something to watch.
Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.54 ERA) will take on another Rays opener in Yonny Chirinos (0-1, 3.71 ERA)