ST. PETERSBURG — The sting of Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees, even with all the inherent drama, was nothing compared to the greater losses for the Rays.
Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier, two of their top all-around players, were hurt and are headed to the injured list. Manager Kevin Cash said Margot is expected to miss “significant” time with what is initially being called a right knee sprain.
“It doesn’t look good,” Cash said.
Margot was hurt crashing hard into the rightfield wall chasing Aaron Hicks’ triple in the ninth inning that scored the go-ahead run. He went down awkwardly, was in obvious pain and was taken off the field on a cart.
“It’s awful,” Rays starter Shane McClanahan said. “I was in the training room when we saw the play happen, and you could feel the air get sucked out of there.
“We’re just praying. It’s unfortunate, and we’re hoping for the best news possible. Manny’s a leader of this team. He’s a key contributor. We love what he brings to the field each day. So we’re all keeping him in our thoughts and prayers.”
Kiermaier left after an awkward second-inning at-bat due to what is being called left hip inflammation. Cash didn’t have much other information or a timeframe for how long he would be out.
“It’s been kind of bothering him for a little while,” Cash said. “Same hip that he’s had issues with in the past.”
With Kiermaier and Margot out, the Rays have three full-time outfielders in Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe and Brett Phillips, and two part-timers in Harold Ramirez and Vidal Brujan, who also play infield and aren’t as strong defensively.
They are expected on Tuesday to call up Luke Raley, the only outfielder on the 40-man roster at Triple-A Durham, and infielder Jonathan Aranda, allowing them to use Brujan and/or Ramirez in the outfield more.
“It’s unfortunate because (Kiermaier and Margot are) such key pieces to our club,” Cash said. “We’ll just have to, I’m sure, put our heads together and figure a way to overcome it. But it’s pretty frustrating right now.”
The Rays (36-31), who dropped to fourth in the AL East and out of playoff position, are already playing without their top two home run hitters in Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino, and their most dynamic offensive player in Wander Franco, who could return by this weekend. Among others sidelined are starters Luis Patino and Drew Rasmussen, and top relievers JP Feyereisen and Andrew Kittredge.
“Injuries are unfortunately a part of this game, but I don’t think it’s every day to this extent,” McClanahan said. “It’s been tough. We’ve lost a lot of key guys. We’re just going to have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and that’s coming to the field, putting our head down, trying to make the best of a bad situation.”
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They appeared for a brief while to be doing that Monday.
No-hit into the eighth inning by Yankees ace right-hander Gerrit Cole, who struck out 12 and walked three, the Rays ended his bid for history when Isaac Paredes slapped a leadoff single.
Better, they wiped out the 2-0 lead the Yankees built with an Anthony Rizzo homer off McClanahan, who otherwise had another dominant six-inning outing, and an unearned run (their majors-most 45th allowed) on a Ji-Man Choi error.
The Paredes single, a pinch-hit double by Francisco Mejia off reliever Clay Holmes and a Yandy Diaz bouncer to the right side got them one run. A Margot roller down the third-base line that Holmes couldn’t make a play on got them another.
That was the first run Holmes allowed since opening day, ending a franchise-record streak of 29 scoreless appearances.
But Rays reliever Jason Adam gave it back. He allowed a one-out single to Josh Donaldson, who singled to left; the Hicks drive to right, on which Margot was hurt that turned into an RBI triple; then a sac fly to make it 4-2.
“Gerrit threw a heck of a game against us and Holmes is one of the best relievers in the game right now,” Phillips said. “To be able to string to some hits together and score some runs, it looked like things were looking up. But when it rains it pours around here.”
• • •
After being swept last week in New York, the Tampa Bay Rays are back at Tropicana Field tonight for the start of a three-game series against the Yankees.
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