Yankees takeaways from Friday's 4-3 loss to Rays, including Aaron Boone's questionable ninth-inning decisions

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Nestor Cortes strides 10/1 cropped
Nestor Cortes strides 10/1 cropped

The Yankees' bats went cold against a bullpen game by the Tampa Bay Rays, until a failed rally in the ninth inning, getting off on the wrong foot of a pivotal three-game series at Yankee Stadium with a 4-3 loss.

Six things to know from Friday's game

1. LHP Nestor Cortes gave the Yankees a chance. A two-out solo home run by Nelson Cruz in the first inning put the Ray ahead 1-0, and Kevin Kiermaier tacked on another in the second with an RBI single that scored Manuel Margot, but Cortes was otherwise solid. In 4 2/3 innings, Cortes (2.90 ERA) scattered five hits while striking out five and walking none on 67 pitches (44 strikes).

2. Without DJ LeMahieu, manager Aaron Boone shuffled the lineup and the result was 2B Gleyber Torres batting leadoff. Torres delivered with a first-pitch double in the first inning, scoring a few batters later on DH Giancarlo Stanton's two-out single to right and tying the Yankees up at 1-1.

On the flip side of Boone's maneuver around LeMahieu's absence, Rougned Odor started at 3B and hit ninth. LeMahieu (hip) turned out to be unavailable as Odor, who went 0 for 4, led off the eight inning with a groundout while the Yankees trailed -- a move, or lack thereof, that seemingly confirmed LeMahieu's availability status.

3. The bullpen followed Cortes with a valiant effort. RHP Clay Holmes entered in the fifth inning after a two-out triple by Kiermaier and struck out Randy Arozarena swinging on a full count, stranding the runner.

Holmes (3.65 ERA) worked through the sixth inning with a pair of groundouts, but issued a two-out walk to Yandy Diaz. LHP Wandy Peralta prevented any drama, though, getting Ji-Man Choi on a strikeout swinging to end the inning.

4. RHP Jonathan Loaisiga stepped up in a tough spot during the seventh inning when Peralta, after striking out Margot and Joey Wendle, ran into trouble with two outs. Francisco Mejia singled and Peralta (3.44 ERA) hit Kiermaier with a pitch.

Loaisiga subsequently came in and walked Arozarena, loading the bases. However, Loaisiga (2.21 ERA) emerged from a battle with Wander Franco for the inning-ending strikeout swinging.

5. RHP Domingo German was on the mound for the first time since July 31, after a bout with shoulder inflammation, and did not miss a beat in his high-pressure eighth inning. After a one-out single by Diaz, who subsequently stole second, he dug deep with consecutive strikeouts swinging -- Choi and Margot -- to get the Yankees into the bottom half at 2-1.

German continued into the ninth, starting off by sitting Wendle down on a three-pitch strikeout. After walking Mejia and Kiermaier, though, Boone called on RHP Albert Abreu. The move did not pay off -- Abreu nearly got a 3-6-1 double play, but Arozarena beat out the throw back to first. Arozarena stole second and Franco deposited a two-RBI single up the middle, putting the Rays up 4-1 entering the bottom half.

Hindsight is 20/20, but not going with LHP Aroldis Chapman -- the Yankees' closer, who was warming up -- to start the inning or at least follow German rather than Abreu was a head-scratching decision.

6. The Yankees did not go down without a fight. Stanton lined one to left, reaching second on what was scored officially as a double -- and then third via defensive indifference -- after an errant throw into the infield. The Rays sold out on a shift for LF Joey Gallo, putting everyone on the right side, and Gallo dropped down a bunt single to the vacant 3B area to score Stanton that cut the Yankees deficit to 4-2.

SS Gio Urshela punched a first-pitch single to right in the next at-bat. Gallo advanced to second. CF Brett Gardner ripped a single to right, scoring Gallo and bringing the Yankees to within 4-3.

Boone and the Yankees decided to pinch-hit Gary Sanchez, who went down on a three-pitch strikeout swinging in place of C Kyle Higashioka. Odor's strikeout swinging afterward stranded runners on first and second as the Yankees' comeback attempt was too little, too late.

Highlights

What's next

The Yankees (91-69) and Rays (99-61) return to action with a quick turnaround Saturday at 1:05 p.m. LHP Jordan Montgomery (6-6, 3.49 ERA) and RHP Shane Baz (2-0, 1.69 ERA) are the probable pitchers for the game.