Entering Saturday’s doubleheader, the Rays were scuffling for runs, so they gladly accepted the multiple chances to score provided by bouts of wildness by Yankees pitchers in Game 2.
Mike King, Luis Avilan and Albert Abreu combined to issue nine walks and hit a batter, which helped the Rays bounce the Yankees, 5-3, and get a split after the Bombers won Game 1.
Two of those walks scored, as did the hit batsman.
In his first big-league start, King issued three consecutive two-out walks in the first inning when a free pass to Yoshi Tsutugo forced in a run. After settling down in the second and third frames the right-hander walked two more with two outs and the bases loaded. Avilan walked the bases full in front of Austin Meadows dumping a two-run single into left.
“I felt like I was nibbling. I was getting down 1-0 to everybody which is not a good recipe for success,’’ King said of the first inning, when he threw 32 pitches. “I am frustrated with myself. I let the umpire [Vic Carapazza] get in my head. I threw a 2-2 pitch to Willy Adames [in the fourth] which actually was a ball and I thought it was a strike, and I couldn’t get back to it.’’
It was the major league debut for Abreu, who gave up two runs, three hits, walked two and hit a batter. Abreu, The Yankees added the right-hander as the “29th man’’ for the doubleheader, was returned to the alternate site after the second game.
Gary Sanchez is also struggling, hitting just .086. (3-for-35), and shortstop Gleyber Torres, who went a combined 2-for-6 Saturday, is hitting just .146.
In the previous seven games, Giancarlo Stanton was hitting .095 (2-for-21) with a .439 OPS and had whiffed seven times. But Stanton had a solid doubleheader on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with two walks and an RBI before leaving Game 2 with a hamstring injury.
Aroldis Chapman threw a bullpen session Saturday at the alternate site in Scranton, and if he comes out of that well, the plan is for the Yankees’ closer to face live hitters this week.
Zack Britton has gone 5-for-5 in save situations filling in for Chapman, who is on the COVID-19 IL.
The Yankees placed backup catcher Kyle Higashioka on the 10-day IL with a strained right oblique and replaced him with Erik Kratz. Had Chris Iannetta reported to the Yankees’ alternate site when he was outrighted on Aug. 4, he might have gotten the call to back up Sanchez. Iannetta didn’t report and was placed on the restricted list.
Manager Aaron Boone didn’t want to get into the reason why Iannetta was on that list. A report out Saturday said Iannetta was retiring. Iannetta was on the 30-man roster and designated for assignment on Aug. 1
“No. I will leave it at that right now,’’ when asked why Iannetta was on the restricted list.
As for Higashioka, Boone hopes the Yankees aren’t looking at a lengthy stay on the IL. Higashioka is slated for an MRI on Monday.
“I knew he was having a little bit of an issue with it Thursday and then thought it was something he thought he could work through and then (Friday) it was a little tighter than we were comfortable going with as a hitter,’’ Boone said of Higashioka, who played in three games and went 2-for-9 (.222). “Hopefully we got a little bit ahead of it and we will see how the next couple of days go.’’
According to Boone there wasn’t a specific incident that caused the oblique problem.
As for the 40-year-old Kratz this is his third stint with the Yankees’ organization. He has played for nine big league teams in a 10-year career. Kratz was eligible to be put on the roster since he was on the Yankees’ taxi squad since Thursday night in Philadelphia.
“Obviously we needed a catcher and (Kratz) is the next guy up. (Kratz) is really good behind the plate. Really good commanding a pitching staff, running a game and has a ton of experience,’’ Boone said of Kratz, who started the second game and went 1-for-3 with a double. “Very comfortable with Erik coming in and being able to be a contributor.’’
The Yankees recalled infielder Thairo Estrada from the alternate site and designated reliever Nick Tropeano for assignment prior to Game 1. They then optioned Estrada to the alternate site between games and recalled pitcher Ben Heller.
Kratz has been at the Yankees’ alternate site where he has caught high-end pitching prospects Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt and wasn’t coy about how the right-handers are throwing.
“They are ready to go. There is no other way of saying it. They are ready to go and there is a lot of really good arms down there,’’ Kratz said of the daily workouts being held at the Yankees’ Triple-A facility in Scranton. “What you saw in spring training is what you are going to get. They are doing the same thing down there.’’