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Yankees fall to rival Rays despite Aaron Judge’s 52nd homer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Not even Aaron Judge can carry the Yankees by himself.

A night after manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees should be “pissed off” and “embarrassed” about their performance Friday night in a shutout loss to the Rays, they were nearly as anemic at the plate, losing for the sixth time in seven games.

This one was a 2-1 loss that cut their lead in the AL East over second-place Tampa Bay to four games (just three in the loss column) as they were dominated by former Yankee Corey Kluber.

It’s their slimmest advantage in the division since May 11, when it was also four games.

Their only run came on a home run by Judge off Jason Adam to lead off the top of the ninth. That ended a Yankees scoreless streak of 21 innings.

And with Andrew Benintendi on the injured list, it now seems that Judge is the only player in the lineup who can hit, so this offensive drought may not be over anytime soon.

Judge’s 52nd home run of the season matched his career-high, set in his rookie season of 2017.

Aaron Judge, who hit his 52nd homer of the season in the ninth inning, reacts dejectedly after striking out in the third inning of the Yankees' 2-1 loss to the Rays.
Aaron Judge, who hit his 52nd homer of the season in the ninth inning, reacts dejectedly after striking out in the third inning of the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Rays.
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

More worrisome for the Yankees is that they’ve breathed new life into the Rays, who have won five in a row.

“We understand the position we’re in and we’ve got to do better, period,’’ Boone said before the game. “The bottom line is, what we’re putting out there is capable and we’ve got to produce.”

At this point, that’s debatable.

“[Friday] night ended up [being] one of those awful days,’’ Boone said. “You should have that professional pride where you don’t want to have that feeling or that look… We understand we’ve got to pick it up.”

Corey Kluber, a former Yankee, pitched seven scoreless innings in the Rays' win.
Corey Kluber, a former Yankee, pitched seven scoreless innings in the Rays’ win.
Getty Images

The Yankees are now 18-31 since their 61-23 start and have scored more than four runs just three times in their last 23 games.

The Rays gave the Yankees a chance to take an early lead when Yandy Diaz made a throwing error with one out in the first, allowing DJ LeMahieu to reach base.

Giancarlo Stanton followed with a bloop single to right that bounced over the head of Manuel Margot. LeMahieu moved to third on the play.

But with Josh Donaldson at the plate, Stanton tried to advance to second on a bounced pitch by Kluber, but Francisco Mejia got to the ball quickly and threw out Stanton for the second out.

Donaldson grounded out to keep the game scoreless.

The Yankees fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the third. After back-to-back singles by Francisco Mejia and Jose Siri to open the inning, Taylor Walls moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt.

Diaz then hit a grounder up the middle that hit off pitcher Clarke Schmidt’s foot. The ball bounced by Gleyber Torres at second, rolling into right field, and both runners scored.

Schmidt retired Manuel Margot and Jonathan Aranda to prevent further damage.

Kluber, meanwhile, continued to mow down the Yankees, on his way to seven scoreless innings. It was his longest start since his no-hitter with the Yankees last season.

After Stanton’s two-out single in the first, Kluber retired the next 14 batters, before Aranda made a throwing error on an Aaron Hicks grounder with one out in the sixth.

Judge followed with the Yankees’ first hit since the first inning, a single to left.

But the slumping LeMahieu struck out looking and Stanton grounded out.

Pete Fairbanks took over for Kluber in the eighth and retired the side in order and Adam finished it in the ninth after Judge homered, getting LeMahieu to pop out, then striking out Stanton and Donaldson.

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