October 7, 2020 | 10:48pm | Updated October 7, 2020 | 10:56pm
A Yankees postseason that started so well could be nine innings from an offseason of regret and hell.
The Yankees punished Shane Bieber, the heavy favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award, and did the same to Carlos Carrasco to sweep the Indians in the AL Wild Card Series. Rays ace Blake Snell took a beating from the Yankees in the first game of the ALDS.
From there the Yankees have morphed into goo.
After losing the second game to turn the best-of-five affair into a best-of-three deal, the Yankees were no match for the Rays at the plate or on the mound Wednesday night and were tagged with a deflating 8-4 loss in Game 3 at San Diego’s Petco Park.
Since the beginning of both spring trainings, throughout the 60-game regular season and during the postseason, the Yankees never stopped talking about having the talent and mindset to navigate the many COVID-19 hurdles to win a World Series for the first time since 2009.
Now, they enter Game 4 on Thursday night nine innings away from being eliminated by their AL East rivals who would revel in sending the Yankees home much earlier than they wanted.
Jordan Montgomery will start Game 4 hoping to extend the Yankees’ season to a winner-take-all Game 5 on Friday, which ace Gerrit Cole would likely start. Prior to Game 3, the Rays hadn’t named their Game 4 pitcher.
Using Deivi Garcia as an opener in Game 2 and J.A. Happ in relief pushed Masahiro Tanaka to Game 3, and in what possibly was the right-hander’s final game as a Yankee, he didn’t pitch well. In four-plus innings Tanaka gave up five runs and five hits.
Consecutive one-out singles by Joey Wendle and Willy Adames in the second inning introduced Tanaka to his first taste of trouble. He responded by striking out Kevin Kiermaier on a breaking ball but gave up an RBI single to the left-handed hitting and No. 9 batter Michael Perez for the game’s first run. Tanaka kept it at a run by whiffing Austin Meadows and stranding two runners.
Tanaka would have trailed an inning earlier had Aaron Judge not robbed Ji-Man Choi of a run-producing RBI double with two outs in the opening frame.
Tanaka gave up a leadoff single to Wendle and walked Adames on a close 3-2 pitch to open the top of the fourth. One pitch later the Rays had a 4-1 lead courtesy of Kiermaier hitting a hanging slider over the right-field wall. It was Kiermaier’s third career homer off Tanaka in 41 at-bats counting the postseason.
Arozarena ended Tanaka’s night with a first-pitch home run to left starting the top of the fifth inning. It was Arozarena’s third ALDS homer, third hit of the game and gave the Rays a 5-1 advantage.
Charlie Morton hadn’t pitched since Sept. 25 but the 36-year-old had enough to limit the Yankees to two runs in five innings.
Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run homer in the eighth marked the fifth straight postseason game he has homered in and sixth in five games. A Judge sacrifice fly and Aaron Hicks double accounted for the Yankees’ two other runs.
Chad Green replaced Tanaka in the fifth and gave up a two-run homer to Perez on a 0-2 pitch in the sixth that stretched the Rays’ lead to 7-2.