Much of that gap can be attributed to the torrid pace of the Red Sox — on pace for 115 wins — but the Yankees’ unreliable starting pitching hasn’t helped, nor have injuries to Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery.
Thus yet another start was given to Cessa, who in 2016 had back-to-back good outings in his first two big-league starts but has since gone 1-10 as a starter, with a 5.24 E.R.A. After his underwhelming performance Wednesday, he was optioned back to Class AAA.
Before the game, Boone had laid out his expectations for Cessa: “I expect him to give us a chance to win tonight. Hopefully he’ll take it into the middle innings and we’ll take it from there.”
Cessa, however, could not even make it out of the fourth inning. His fate was foreshadowed in the first inning, when all three outs came on fly balls hit to the warning track. The Rays got their first run in the second after a double by Kevin Kiermaier and a run-scoring single by Brandon Lowe. They added two more in the third on three singles — one of which might not have been a hit if the Yankee infield had not been in a shift — a walk, and an infield out, which could have been a double play had Didi Gregorius not been positioned behind second base against Ji-Man Choi, a left-handed hitter.
And when Mallex Smith jumped on a hanging slider with one out in the fourth for a two-run home run that increased the Tampa Bay lead to 5-1, Cessa’s night was over. He left the mound to a chorus of boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd.
The Yankees’ lone run came in the second inning on a solo homer from Miguel Andujar, the 19th of his rookie season, but they squandered several scoring chances against Rays starter Jake Faria and three relievers. The Yankees did not have another hit after Andujar’s sixth-inning leadoff double.
“I think we are in the midst of a tough stretch for us,” Boone said. “We are a little banged up, obviously. It’s not easy for us right now. As we become more and more whole over the next couple of weeks, hopefully we put ourselves in a position to finish strong and give ourselves a chance come October.”
Aaron Judge’s recovery from a chipped bone in his right wrist is taking longer than the Yankees expected. On Monday, Judge was given a cortisone shot to alleviate lingering pain stemming from the injury he sustained on July 26. “We thought maybe three weeks would cover it, but it’s going to be longer than that,” General Manager Brian Cashman said in a radio interview on Wednesday. “So, we missed on the time frame.”