It was a cold, dreary night at Yankee Stadium, and the overall performance of the Bronx Bombers reflected the meteorological environment in which they played. From the word go, the Yankees were never really in this one. Opener Nick Nelson spotted the Rays a two-run first inning lead, and the ensuing uphill battle for the Bombers proved to be a Sisyphean task.
Nelson walked leadoff batter Austin Meadows, and then surrendered back-to-back doubles to Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe. Before you could even find your seat, the Rays were already up 2-0. He managed to right the ship and prevent any further damage in the inning, but his high pitch count (30), declining velocity, and general ineffectiveness ensured he would not return for the second inning.
The opener strategy only works if the pitcher who leads it off can actually, y’know, pitch. Nelson was abysmal. It begs the question why Mike King, who was stellar in six scoreless innings against the Blue Jays two weeks ago, wasn’t just deployed as a traditional starter. A question reinforced by King’s clean top of the second, needing only 18 pitches and picking up two strikeouts. The Yankees got their first baserunner of the night on Gio Urshela’s second inning line drive single to center, but Wacha retired Aaron Hicks and Gary Sánchez to end the inning.