Yankees drop fourth straight in series opener to Rays

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Fresh off getting swept by one of the league’s worst teams, the Yankees came home to start a huge week with series against the top two teams in the AL East.

“It starts today,” Aaron Boone said Monday morning.

The Yankees will have to give Tuesday a shot instead.

Monday, it was more of the same for the struggling Yankees’ offense, which mustered just five hits in a 3-1 loss to the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

“When you get done with us in a series … we want you to feel like it was heavy, it was difficult, it was a lot to get through us,” Boone said. “That hasn’t been the case enough and that’s what we got to get back to as a group.”

After scoring only five runs on 23 hits in three games against the Tigers over the weekend — going 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position — the Yankees had only two runners in scoring position all game Monday.

New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner #11, reacts after striking out to end the 7th inning. Nypostinhouse

Photo by Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post
Brett Gardner reacts after striking out to end the 7th inning.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

While Boone pointed to the Yankees hitting balls hard off Rays starter Rich Hill as an encouraging sign, they have now scored two runs or fewer in nine of their past 12 games — a low they hadn’t sunk to since 1971, according to YES Network. The result has been four straight losses and dropping six of their past seven games.

The Rays (35-20), meanwhile, have now won 16 of their past 17 to stake their claim atop the AL East, 5 ¹/₂ games ahead of the Yankees (29-25), who will welcome the Red Sox to The Bronx later this week.

“We’re just trying to get better,” said Gio Urshela, one of four Yankees to go 0-for-4. “We know they got pretty good arms, but we’re trying to fight them every single game.”

Miguel Andujar finally got the Yankees on the scoreboard in the seventh inning with a solo home run off Michael Wacha. But after pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez walked, with the season-high crowd of 17,008 on its feet, Brett Gardner struck out to end the threat.

Jameson Taillon turned in a solid start for the Yankees, but had no margin for error. He worked into the sixth inning for the second time this year, giving up three runs on five hits over five-plus innings.

“It’d be nice to pitch with a lead, but at the same time, that’s how it’s going right now,” Taillon said. “I’m confident we’ll pull through, but right now with how it’s going, I needed to definitely put up a few more zeroes.”

The Rays got to Taillon for single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. One came on a solo home run by Austin Meadows that traveled 334 feet (and had a .040 expected batting average, per Statcast). The other two came in rallies started by leadoff hits from Kevin Kiermaier to post the Rays to a 3-0 lead.

But the Yankees failed to cobble together any kind of rallies against Hill, who had held them scoreless for 6 ²/₃ innings the last time he faced them on May 13. The soft-throwing 41-year-old kept them off balance, throwing five shutout innings and giving up only three singles — two of which came with two outs in the second inning before Gardner grounded out to end it.

In the fifth inning, third baseman Yandy Diaz robbed DJ LeMahieu of a hit with a diving stop, then threw from his knees to start a 5-4-3 double play — the Yankees’ league-worst 52nd of the season.

The Rays then turned to their bullpen with Wacha, Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Thompson and J.P. Feyereisen combining to keep the Yankees at bay the rest of the way.

“We’re just going to keep poring into game plans and wherever we can try to make subtle adjustments with individuals and things we’re looking for and searching for,” Boone said. “We’ll keep working at it.”

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