The Yankees didn’t let James Paxton rest on his masterpiece, and it cost them.
Even without the noisemakers and tan lines, you could go 100 years without playing a more stereotypical Yankees-Rays multi-annual Garbage Festival at the Trop.
With a series split on the line, you wouldn’t find many Yankees fans confident in coming out with the victory on Sunday. James Paxton threw batting practice in his first two games to the tune of a 13.50 ERA. The Yanks absolutely never hit opposing starter Charlie Morton, who usually feasts on their propensity to dirt-dive on curveballs. Most of the back end of the bullpen wasn’t available — Adam Ottavino, who worked back-to-back days, was not going to be used. If, by some miracle, Paxton got them a lead, they were going to need for it to be a large one to feel secure. Nothing looked good.
Then, the tide started turning. Paxton was spectacular, proving he could work with only an additional mile-an-hour or two added to his fastball. He whiffed 11 in his first six innings of work, surrendering a solitary single.
Morton left the game laboring in the third, citing injury. Nobody wants to get to the Rays bullpen late, but forgive us for celebrating about getting a chance to see the underbelly.
That made this, suddenly, the type of game you absolutely cannot lose.
Naturally, the Yankees not only lost it, but lost it seemingly in triplicate. This failure felt like it counted for more — and it did, in both a 60-game season where every loss is a trio, and in the standings, where the Rays just swung things two games by standing on their heads.
Against Trevor Richards, with an ERA flirting with 10.00, the Yanks could not buy a clutch hit. The brand names found new an inventive ways to mess up rallies. Mike Ford, one pitch away from loading the bases, hit a check-swing DP. It was every L the Yankees have taken in Tampa, mowed down by endless create-a-players, in a vacuum.
And what about Paxton? He was absolutely brilliant through six, giving the rest of us an outpouring of hope for the remainder of his season. However, after only throwing 41 and 62 laborious pitches in his first two starts, most would’ve pulled him, nearing 80.
Ah, but that’s where the short bullpen joins the conversation!
In an attempt to steal outs, Paxton gave up a double to Jose Martinez, caught Hunter Renfroe (the Yankees’ MVP in this game) overswinging, then gave up a TATTOOED two-run shot to Michael Brosseau. 3-2. Tough luck, but nothing we haven’t seen in recent days, with Gerrit Cole pushed to the limit, too.
Nope. Boone wasn’t satisfied yet. Clearly willing to use Jonathan Holder for multiple innings (he came in one pitch later!), our manager let Paxton wilt. He allowed an atom ball to Brandon Lowe, and the resulting walk-off two innings later by a backup catcher hitting .000 was only window dressing.
This game was lost in the seventh, it was lost disastrously, and it was lost at the expense of James Paxton, who was incredible, and earned our praise.
It was lost by the offense, scoring two unearned against the 31st and 32nd men on the Rays roster. It was lost when the Yanks complained about the Rays’ brushback pitches, but did nothing but silently lament it to the media, and not on the field.
The Yankees let the Rays chirp. There’s no stopping them now; they were the better team, and they will take full advantage, now that the Yankees have set the AL East race on an entirely different axis.