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Behind strong pitching from Charlie Morton and the bullpen, the Rays topped the Yankees 4-0. The Rays took an early lead in the first against opener Jonathan Loaisiga and never looked back. The Yankees did bring the tying run up in the 8th, but didn’t come through. Alas. To the takeaways we go:

Good stuff, but poor results for Loaisiga

The Rays were all over Loaisiga in the first inning. Joey Wendle led off the game with a solo homer to dead center, but the Rays weren’t done there. They tallied three more singles in the first, capped off by Brandon Lowe’s RBI single with two outs. This wasn’t a dink-and-dunk rally either, the Rays hit Loaisiga hard:

The Yankees have tried a handful of openers this season, but only Chad Green has found sustained success. He’s made 14 starts (opens?) whereas Loaisiga has started three times before tonight, though those were earlier this season when he was stretched out. Loaisiga’s numbers were better as a reliever (3.38 ERA vs. 5.73) entering tonight, which figures to be his role in the postseason should he make the roster.

Even with the rough outing tonight, Loaisiga’s stuff still looked tremendous. Tampa Bay whiffed at 5 of 24 pitches and went down on strikes twice. Obviously the name of the game is run prevention, and he didn’t succeed in that facet tonight, but it’s easy to see why the Yankees like him in short stints so much. 98 miles per hour with a sharp curveball will play.

Happ seems like a tough match up for Tampa Bay

The Rays have a lot of left handed hitters. JA Happ does well against lefties. So, if the Yankees and Rays meet in the postseason, we may see Happ a decent amount.

Entering tonight, Happ had allowed just three runs in 10 1/3 innings against the Rays this season. Small sample size, I know. But tonight, he tacked on 5 more innings of one run ball in relief of Loaisiga.

Happ’s fastball was really good tonight. Per Statcast, he threw 35 four-seamers and 17 two-seamers. He topped out at 94 and garnered 8 whiffs against the four-seamer while obtaining 5 swings-and-misses against his two-seamer.

It’s not hard to see why Happ has had success against the Rays. For one, their offense is mediocre in general (102 wRC+). However, and more applicable to Happ, they have a bunch of left-handed hitters. Guys like Austin Meadows, Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe, and Joey Wendle are lineup regulars. I’m not saying I’d want him to pitch a ton should the two division rivals square off, of course. It’s just food for thought.

Charlie Morton and the Rays’ bullpen dominated

The Yankees had no chance against Morton tonight. Not that many other teams have fared well against him, either. He’s been an excellent signing for Tampa Bay after becoming a late bloomer with Houston. Yet surprisingly, Morton’s numbers against the Yankees aren’t all that special. It feels like tonight was more of the same for him against New York, but alas:

PeriodInningsERA
2019 (Entering Tonight)15 1/35.28
Regular Season Career41 2/34.54
2017 ALCS8 2/37.27

But, that’s because the Yankees seem to have his number in the Bronx. Morton has a 6.04 regular season ERA at Yankee Stadium and a 1.35 ERA everywhere else. That trend held in the 2017 postseason too: he threw five shutout innings in Houston in game 7 of the ALCS but got knocked around in game 3 of that series in New York.

Final note: In case you’re wondering, he only faced the Yankees once before his resurgence in Houston. In 2014, he allowed four runs across seven innings as a member of the Pirates.

Tonight, Morton held the Yankees hitless through 5 2/3 innings before DJ LeMahieu broke up the no-hit bid with a singe to right field. Pretty easy to see why he’s capable of dominating in this sort of fashion:

Morton wound up finishing six scoreless frames before handing the ball to the Ray’s bullpen. The final line: 6 innings, 1 hit, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts, no runs. His patented curveball was excellent and had the Yankees in knots. 45 of Morton’s 100 pitchers were yakkers, and he generated 11 whiffs on it. The Yankees were 0-for-11 in at-bats that ended in a curve. Pretty impressive. If the Yankees take on the Rays next month, hopefully it’s in the Bronx.

After Morton, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Nick Anderson, and Andrew Kittredge shut the door. The Yankees got close to getting back in this one in the eighth when they put two runners aboard against Drake. Aaron Judge was the tying run and the Rays brought in their relief ace in Anderson, who fanned Judge. Before this game, Anderson had struck out 52 percent (!) of hitters since joining the Rays via trade from the Marlins this summer.

Overall, not much to say about the offense tonight. Just six baserunners and 16 strikeouts tonight.

Leftovers

  • Little bit of a health scare in the 9th inning (because of course). Gleyber Torres fouled a ball off home plate which ricocheted off his right ear/jaw area. He stayed in and struck out. We’ll see if there’s anything more to it.
  • After Luis Cessa gave up a solo shot to Avisaíl García in the 9th to make it 4-0, Aaron Boone brought in Aroldis Chapman to finish this one out despite the deficit. The closer hadn’t pitch since the 19th and only made three appearances this month before tonight’s outing.
  • Despite the two-game sweep, the Yankees won the season series against the Rays, 12-7. I know these two games were annoying, but the Yankees are clearly the better team and should beat them in the playoffs should that arise.
  • Tommy Kahnle’s had a rough September after a mostly dominant 2019. He didn’t get much help from his defense tonight, but he didn’t look great either. Hopefully it’s just a rough patch. He only recorded one out on 17 pitches.
  • Word on Domingo Germán came out almost immediately after the game thread was published. His administrative leave as has been extended through the World Series, which was as anticipated. I think it’s safe to assume he’ll begin 2020 on an official suspension for violating the domestic violence policy.
  • Look out! Ken Singleton will be back on YES in 2020. We’ve already staved off one year of retirement for the former ballplayer and longtime announcer, and I’m glad to hear we get him for at least one more season. It’ll be a limited schedule similar to this year, but better something than nothing at all.

The Yankees are off tomorrow before they begin the final series of the season this weekend in Texas. This last week of baseball has been a bit of a drag, but we’re getting there, folks.