MLB: Rays aim to go up 10 games on last-place Yankees

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The Tampa Bay Rays experienced three of their quietest nights at the plate against the Baltimore Orioles earlier this week.

The Rays shrugged it off and resumed producing big results at the plate in the series opener against the New York Yankees. They will now attempt to enjoy another successful hitting display Friday night when the American League East foes continue a four-game series.

Division-leading Tampa Bay went 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position while dropping two of three to the Orioles, just the Rays’ third series loss of the season. After getting blanked for the first four innings Thursday, the Rays cruised to an 8-2 rout for their third win in four meetings with the Yankees this year.

“It’s just part of the game, it happens,” Tampa Bay right fielder Josh Lowe said. “We ran into a hot Baltimore pitching staff there and they were doing their job, but we know the guys we have in this clubhouse and everybody else, we go out there and put up nights like (Thursday).”

The Rays collected eight of their 11 hits against New York’s relievers, highlighted by a big night from Lowe. He scored the game’s first run on Yandy Diaz’s double in the fifth, then hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth and a two-run homer in the eighth to collect a career-best five RBIs.

“Whether it’s the Yankees or anyone else in the AL East, it doesn’t matter,” Lowe said of being nine games up on the Yankees. “We’re trying to win as many ballgames as we can to separate ourselves from everybody else. So we’re going to do what we can to go out there and win a lot of ballgames.”

The Rays may be forced to pursue their next win without star shortstop Wander Franco, who is day-to-day due to neck tightness. Franco had two hits on Thursday before exiting in the fifth inning.

Gleyber Torres hit a two-run double in the ninth, but the last-place Yankees were held to two runs or fewer for the 14th time. The rough night at the plate came after they scored 28 runs in a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge struck out three times on Thursday in his third game back from a strained right hip.

“We got to come up with a better game plan in the box and execute it,” Judge said.

The Yankees hope they can produce better results at the plate in support of right-hander Gerrit Cole, who is coming off his worst outing this season.

Cole (5-0, 2.09 ERA) saw his ERA climb from 1.35 on Sunday when he allowed season highs of six runs, five earned runs and eight hits in a season-low five-plus innings against Tampa Bay.

Cole also served up his first two homers of the season when Jose Siri hit a solo homer in the fifth inning and Christian Bethancourt slugged a three-run shot in the sixth — hits that helped the Rays eventually get an 8-7 win on a single by Isaac Paredes in the 10th.

“That’s awful,” Cole said Sunday. “I’ve got to find a way to do a better job to get us out of there and get us a little bit deeper and prevent the runs.

Cole is 2-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 16 career starts against the Rays, who have homered 12 times in 97 innings against him to counter their .218 batting average and .645 OPS in their encounters with him.

Tampa Bay will use an opener, with right-hander Trevor Kelley (0-1, 9.00 ERA) expected to make the start. The bulk reliever might be Josh Fleming (0-0, 4.55 ERA), who allowed six runs in five innings against the Yankees on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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