Rays again come up short against Yankees

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NEW YORK — Wednesday’s game looked a lot like Tuesday’s.

The Rays got a solid starting pitching performance. The Rays didn’t hit much. The Rays made a costly outfield error. The Rays were party to an umpiring controversy.

And the Rays lost.

The final was 4-3 Wednesday, and the gap between the Rays (35-27) and the majors-best Yankees (47-16) grew to 11 games in the AL East.

Also, there were injury issues, with Thursday’s scheduled pitcher Drew Rasmussen sidelined due to a hamstring strain and centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier leaving during the third inning with left calf/Achilles soreness.

“When you’re playing a really good team like we are right now, these two games, there’s just been a couple costly mistakes that seemed to add to runs,’’ manager Kevin Cash said.

The costliest mistakes occurred in the fifth inning, as the Yankees stretched a 1-0 lead over starter Shane McClanahan to 4-0.

Brett Phillips, who replaced Kiermaier, made the most glaring miscue, dropping a fly ball to right-center hit by Josh Donaldson to start the inning, saying the potential of colliding with rightfielder Manuel Margot was a factor.

“Ball should have been caught, 100 percent,’’ Phillips said. “I pulled up right there at the last second, thought I was going to run full speed into Manny and took my eye off it for the last second and dropped it, which is unacceptable.’’

That made a third straight game that one of the Rays’ usually sure-handed outfielders misplayed a fly ball, following Kiermaier on Sunday and Margot on Tuesday.

“It is odd,’’ Cash said.

Also odd? The normally tidy Rays have now allowed 43 unearned runs, second most in the majors.

McClanahan got the next two out but fell behind Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3-0. Cash opted to put him on rather than McClanahan giving him something too good to hit, bringing up lighter-hitting catcher Kyle Higashioka. That backfired, as Higashioka launched a three-run homer.

“Just felt like Isaiah has swung the bat well for them this year, felt like that was putting a lot of pressure on Mac to come back into that count with him. He puts the ball in play a lot,’’ Cash said. “But it’s not a good feeling when you see the ball leave the ballpark.’’

McClanahan said he wasn’t aware of the intentional walk until he readied for the next pitch but understood the strategy and blamed himself for not doing better after falling behind Higashioka 1-0.

“Made a bad pitch and he put a good swing on it,’’ McClanahan said.

Overall, matched up against the Yankees’ Nestor Cortes in a battle of two of the league’s top starters, McClanahan did what Cash called “an awesome job,” also allowing a solo homer to Aaron Judge but not much else over six innings.

McClanahan, who took his first loss since April 30 in dropping to 7-3, 1.84, wasn’t as positive in his self-review. “I felt good,’’ he said. “I made some bad pitches, made some good pitches. No excuses. I’ve got to be better when I take the ball.’’

The game was delayed more than 15 minutes in the top of the eighth, as the Rays were rallying with two on. Umpires discussed then checked with the replay center whether a visit to the mound by Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake was made before Ji-Man Choi was introduced as a pinch-hitter for Isaac Paredes. That needed to be decided to determine if manager Aaron Boone could make a second trip to take out right-handed reliever Miguel Castro and bring in lefty Lucas Luetge.

After about 10 minutes, the umpires said Boone could. Crew chief Phil Cuzzi said they “just wanted to be sure.’’ Cash then came out; Cuzzi said he was questioning if the Yankees were gaining an advantage by giving Luetge more time to get ready.

Higashioka said the delay “was brutal. I feel like that can’t happen. There’s got to be somebody that knows what to do.’’ Choi said he was confused by the issue, but it didn’t bother him. He then singled in a run off Luetge.

“If you look at the result itself, you can say that I won the battle,’’ Choi said, via team interpreter Daniel Park.

Rene Pinto followed with a bloop RBI single to make it 4-3.

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