Yankees searching for answers as intense series vs. Rays loom

Aaron Judge Yankees
Aaron Judge and the Yankees are 5-7 through 12 games this season.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge was left speechless for a moment after his Yankees dropped another series to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday following Bo Bichette’s walk-off victory.

“I’m just trying to think through the games,” he said. “It’s the little things. Base-running mistakes, mistakes in the outfield, not coming up with just a clutch hit, taking our singles when we can.”

The first 12 games of the new campaign have proven to be quite a struggle, as their mighty offense has been nothing short of underwhelming — averaging just four runs per game. Only eight teams in Major League Baseball have a worse average than that.

“It’s just kind of inconsistent,” Judge said. “That’s the word I keep coming back to. Having quality at-bats, putting the ball in play when we need to, situational hitting. Just all that together isn’t a good recipe. We have to grind it out. Guys when they come up in a situation where they have to get a guy over or score a guy, we just have to get the job done.”

The struggles have only been magnified by a starting rotation outside of Gerrit Cole that has been a liability. In seven combined starts, Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber, and Jordan Montgomery have yielded 18 earned runs.

Unable to get firing on all cylinders, the Yankees are 5-7 and near the bottom of the AL East with another marquee divisional matchup to kick off a homestand against the Tampa Bay Rays where there’s no love lost.

Years of a plunking war that has raised tensions between the two sides led to the Yankees hitting four Rays batters during their series last weekend in which Tampa took two-of-three.

Rays manager Kevin Cash isn’t forgetting any of it, citing last year’s drama that included former starter Masahiro Tanaka drilling Joey Wendle in the first inning of a September game before closer Aroldis Chapman fired a 100-mph fastball over the head of Michael Brosseau; stating that it was “grossly mishandled” by Major League Baseball and why the issues continue in 2021.

While any pitch that winds up high or tight will be a storyline, the Yankees are just trying to find their groove this season.

“We’ve been on the receiving end of that and I know we hit a few guys in the last series and I get their frustration,” manager Aaron Boone said. “That’s not for us to get caught up into right now. We have to go out there and play good baseball. We have another good team coming into town for a big homestand and we can’t get caught up in that.”

Especially because the Yankees are already facing a four-game deficit for the American League East lead.

“That just goes back to we have a job to do,” Judge said. “I have a job to do… The outside noise is just noise. I have to focus on what I have to do on the field and if a guy gets hit, there are ways to take care of that, ways to clear that up.

“Tensions are high. We kind of have gone back and forth with the Rays. We get hit, we get brushed back, they get hit, they get brushed back. It’s kind of back and forth. The most important thing is to just focus on the game and let o

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