BOSTON — The Yankees were punchless at the plate against Rick Porcello Thursday night, just one day after throwing haymakers in the infield, but Sonny Gray’s continued struggles were the biggest takeaway from the lackluster 6-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Gray was supposed to be a No. 2-type starter, but he’s pitching more like a No. 4 or 5 right now.
On Thursday night, the 28-year-old righty nibbled — as he’s known to do — instead of attacking. He worked at his usual slow pace, was all over the place and couldn’t finish hitters off.
Overall, Gray allowed six runs on seven hits in three-plus innings. He uncorked a staggering three wild pitches — while walking a pair as well.
“It’s frustrating because he’s really important to us,” Aaron Boone said. “We know what he’s capable of, but tonight wasn’t his night — whether he was falling behind or struggling to put guys away. Tonight it just wasn’t there.”
Gray had two strikes on eight hitters — and five of them reached. An error by the usually sure-handed Tyler Wade — whose batting average now sits at .097 — and a misplay by Giancarlo Stanton that turned a routine fly ball to left into a ground-rule RBI double didn’t help matters either. The sloppy-fielding Bombers lead the AL with 13 errors.
Six of the first seven hitters Gray faced reached base in the second inning, and the Sox opened up an insurmountable 4-0 lead as Porcello flirted with a no-hitter for much of the night.
“He got us to come out of our plan,” said Stanton, who had one of two hits off Porcello — both of them coming in the seventh inning. “That’s what happens if you don’t stick to it.”
Gray has now totaled 13 innings in his first three starts. Austin Romine has managed to guide Gray through games fairly well, but Gray and Gary Sanchez weren’t on the same page all that often in their first time working together this season, with Gray frequently shaking Sanchez off.
Last season, Gray had a 4.63 ERA in eight starts with Sanchez, and a 1.45 ERA in three starts with Romine (3.60 this season in two starts). Catcher’s ERA may not be a complete stat by any means, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
“I just didn’t execute very well,” Gray (current ERA: 6.92) said, not blaming Sanchez at all. “It just made it hard all the way around.”
Boone plans to keep going with the Gray-Sanchez tandem — no surprise given he said he doesn’t want any of his pitchers having personal catchers.
“Sonny has a lot of ideas about how he wants to attack certain things,” Boone said. “Could it have been them struggling to get on that same page together? But that’s something that has to happen — and we feel like will happen. I just think it was more a case of not really being his night.”
Luis Severino (5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER) and Masahiro Tanaka (5 IP, 7 H, 6 ER) were also lousy in the Red Sox series. Starting pitching was obviously a question mark, so much so that Brian Cashman pursued the likes of Shohei Ohtani, Gerrit Cole and Yu Darvish in the offseason — only to come away with none of them.
And given the thin rotation depth behind Gray, Severino, Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery and CC Sabathia, who is currently working his way back from a hip injury, the Yankees pretty much have to stick with this group and hope for better things to come.
At least until they can eventually acquire another impact arm with their deep farm system.
Or have their potent offense get back on track and make life a lot easier for the guys on the mound.
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