Things go wrong in a hurry for Aaron Civale, Rays vs. Yankees

NEW YORK — Aaron Civale was throwing a lot of pitches Sunday but getting the outs when he needed them.

Until the fifth inning, when six straight Yankees reached, with four scoring.

That put the Rays in a hole they couldn’t quite climb out of in what ended up a disappointing 5-4 defeat and a losing weekend trip.

“Just one of those days ( I was) out there battling,” Civale said. “Felt like the stuff was fine but command and control, where I was trying to throw certain pitches, wasn’t there today. Just battled as long as I could.”

Despite a 30-pitch first inning, which included two walks and a two-out RBI single, Civale got to the fifth with a manageable 73 pitches and a 1-1 tie.

He quickly retired the two toughest hitters, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge, on groundouts.

Then Civale quickly made a mess.

He walked Giancarlo Stanton on four pitches, Anthony Rizzo on nine (including three two-strike foul balls) and Gleyber Torres on six to load the bases.

“I don’t know that a whole lot changed,” Civale said. “Kind of felt like the stuff was fine but command wasn’t great all (game). ... Obviously three straight walks is never a good thing.”

Especially considering Civale’s game is based on control. In his first four starts, covering 23 innings, he had walked only four. Between the two in the first inning Sunday and the three straight in the fifth, he gave out a career-high five free passes.

“I think he probably just got a little bit too fine, trying to make that perfect pitch,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Which, I mean, I don’t fault him. It’s a 1-1 ball game, He’s trying everything he can to keep it at that. And you’ve got to give credit to those guys that took the walks because there were a lot of deep counts, foul balls in there.”

But then things got worse.

The next three Yankees all swung at the first pitch, and each delivered a run-scoring single.

Alex Verdugo laced a change-up to leftfield at 108.2 mph to score two. Jose Trevino turned a high cutter into a soft single to center to score one. And Oswaldo Cabrera blooped another out-of-the-zone cutter to center for another to make it 5-1.

“Walks and singles killed me (Sunday),” Civale said.

Cash acknowledged things happened quickly, but said he remained confident — even as Civale’s pitch count climbed toward and eventually over 100 — he would get out of the inning.

“There’s always thought (of taking Civale out), but I just felt confident that the way he was pitching there was reason for him to continue to execute pitches and get outs,” Cash said. “But they put together the two at-bats leading into Verdugo (that) might have taken a little bit out of him.”

He also said the American League East-leading Yankees deserved some credit.

“They put together some really good at-bats,” Cash said. “It did kind of happen fast. The pitch count got driven up in the first inning then he did a nice job of resetting it and navigating his way through that lineup a couple of times.”

The Rays didn’t do much over 5⅔ innings against Yankees starter Luis Gil, rapping only two hits on the day, striking out nine times and scoring an unearned run on a balk.

“Credit to him,” said Rays rightfielder Amed Rosario, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “He’s the type of pitcher that throws a lot of balls but (Sunday) he found the zone and I think that was the key for him.”

But the Rays (12-11) were able to rally in the eighth against reliever Dennis Santana, turning it back into a one-run game.

New York native Richie Palacios, enjoying his homecoming weekend, singled with one out, and Isaac Paredes drew an 11-pitch walk. Rosario, who earlier extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games, doubled them both in. Then Curtis Mead followed with a single to make it 5-4.

“It does seem like anytime we’re doing something good offensively Rosario is right in the thick of it,” Cash said. “All of it.”

But on this day, they couldn’t do enough.

“Everyone’s working,” Rosario said. “We know we’re struggling a little bit, but we’ve just got to keep battling.”

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