NEW YORK (AP) - Brad Boxberger picked up the ball on a ninth-inning bunt and threw wildly to first. By the time second baseman Jake Elmore’s throw reached home, the Tampa Bay Rays’ losing streak had stretched to seven games.
“It’s frustrating that the outcome of the game is based on a throw that should be pretty simple,” Boxberger said after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to the New York Yankees. “I didn’t set my feet, just rushed it a little bit, and that’s what happens.”
A day after the Rays wasted a two-run, 12th-inning lead in a 7-5 defeat, botched bunt defense led to their first loss on a walk-off error since May 28 last year, when pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo threw wildly to first on a bunt by Toronto’s Anthony Gose.
“You make that play nine times out of 10,” Boxberger said, “but when everything is going in the wrong direction, it’s kind of that, every little bad break that can happen, happens.”
Steven Souza Jr. tied the score in the top half with a two-run homer when Dellin Betances (5-1) left a curveball in the middle of the strike zone after James Loney’s leadoff single.
“It felt good to put us back in contention for the win, but at this point I’ll go 0 for 6 for six days if we keep winning,” Souza said. “We’ve pitched and then we haven’t hit, and hit when we don’t pitch. It’s going to come back.”
Souza, whose 15 homers lead the Rays, was in an 0-for-26 slide that included 16 strikeouts before his fourth-inning single.
“For Souza to get out of his little funk and do it against Betances, that was one of those ‘wow’ home runs,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
But Mark Teixeira turned on a 94 mph fastball from Boxberger (4-4) leading off the bottom half and grounded the ball between the diving bodies of Loney, positioned just off first base, and Elmore, about 15 feet off the foul line, in short right field.
Teixeira slid into second base with a leadoff double after the ball rolled to the wall in the right-field corner. Chris Young walked and rookie Ramos Flores, recalled from the minors a day earlier, got ahead in the count 2-0 before bunting to the third-base side of the mound.
Boxberger fielded the ball, looked to second, then bounced a throw to the fair side of first base. Elmore knocked the ball down, then threw home too late for catcher Curt Casali to tag sliding pinch-runner Jose Pirela, who scored all the way from second.
“It was like a snow cone,” Elmore said. “It’s like tentacles, and you try to catch it.”
Tampa Bay’s slide is its longest since a 10-game skid from May 26 to June 5 last year.
“I’m not frustrated with the guys. We have nothing to be frustrated about,” Cash said. “We’re playing good. We’re going to go through parts of the season where breaks, everything goes our way, and then we’re going to go through parts of the season it appears as if it’s not. I think we’re in one of those parts.”
Yankees starter Michael Pineda allowed five hits in seven-plus innings, struck out 10 and walked one.
Nathan Karns was nearly as impressive for the Rays, striking out a career-high 10 in seven innings while allowing five hits. He gave up first-inning runs on Alex Rodriguez’s bloop single and Teixeira’s sacrifice fly.
“I was executing pitches, and they were just falling in,” Karns said.
He is 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this year and 1-1 overall in his last five outings despite a 1.78 ERA.
“I cannot say enough about what he did,” Cash said. “That was just awesome.”
Still, the Rays left the field with consecutive walk-off losses for the first time since May 28 and 30 last year, according to STATS.
“Those losses hurt probably more than any of them,” Cash said. “A loss is a loss, but they sting a little bit more.”
HERE AND THERE
Tampa Bay optioned left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser to Triple-A Durham, selected the contract of left-hander Everett Teaford from the Bulls, designated first baseman/outfielder Marc Krauss for assignment and announced right-hander Ronald Belisario declined an outright assignment to Durham and elected to become a free agent.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (oblique) is to make what likely will be his final minor league rehabilitation start Monday for the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Class A Florida State League, according to Cash.
RHP Ivan Nova (1-1) starts for New York in Sunday’s series finale against RHP Erasmo Ramirez (6-3). Nova has lost four straight decisions against the Rays after winning six of his first seven.
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