Here's a thing we have said seemingly every single day during the 2023 season: The Tampa Bay Rays won.
The latest installment in this ongoing and growing-more-cumbersome-by-the-day series was an 8-2 victory over the Yankees in the Bronx Thursday night. The Yankees -- the defending AL East champs -- fall to 21-18 on the season, keeping them in last place in the division. They are now nine games back of the Rays.
We'll get the bad news out of the way quickly for the Rays. Phenom shortstop Wander Franco had to leave the game in the middle of the fifth inning with what the team called right side neck spasms/tightness. On a routine groundout off of his bat, Franco was grabbing his neck while running to first base and it appeared to be a mix of slight pain and annoyance. He's expected to be re-evaluated Friday.
Franco, 22, is hitting .318/.374/.554 with 14 doubles, seven homers, 23 RBI, 23 runs and 12 stolen bases this season in addition to sparkling defense at a premium position, all of which have helped elevate him to being the current MLB WAR leader. Needless to say, the Rays would miss him greatly if he did miss any time.
The rest of the night had very few negatives for the Rays. Starting pitcher Drew Rasmussen continued his All-Star-caliber work to start the season, slicing through the Yankees' order with seeming ease and excellent efficiency. In seven scoreless innings, on 76 pitches, he allowed just two singles with seven strikeouts.
Offensively, a Yandy Díaz RBI double got the scoring started in the fifth and then Josh Lowe's two-out, bases-clearing double broke the game open in the sixth.
That pretty well put the game away, given the minimal Yankees offense from start to finish. But Lowe wasn't done. He added a two-run shot in the eighth, giving him a five-RBI night.
The win moves the Rays to 30-9 on the season. The fastest team to 30 wins last year was the Yankees, who had racked up 13 losses by that point. In 2021, it was the Padres, who had 17 in the loss column. In fact, in the integration era (1947-present), these are the only teams to reach 30 wins before losing for a 10th time:
- 1984 Tigers, 30-5 (won World Series)
- 2001 Mariners, 30-9 (lost ALCS)
- 1998 Yankees, 30-9 (won World Series)
- 1977 Dodgers, 30-9 (lost World Series)
- 2023 Rays, 30-9 (TBD)
Back on the Yankees' end, this sort of deficit is certainly workable over the course of such a long season. It's been done a few times before. Plus, with the three wild-card teams, they are only one game back of a playoff spot right now. They also have three games left this series against the Rays. The team should view that as an opportunity to scratch back to within six games. Of course, there's also the possibility that the Rays take the next three games and push the Yankees all the way down to 12 back. That's considerably less workable.
The Rays starter for Friday is still to be determined, but it'll be ace Gerrit Cole (5-0, 2.09 ERA) getting the ball for the Yankees. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.