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Sonny Gray Wilts in a Spot Start for the Yankees

Category: Other Sports,Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees did not acquire Sonny Gray last year at the trade deadline to be an occasional fill-in. An All-Star with the Oakland Athletics in 2015, Gray was expected to be a stalwart of the rotation, not a surplus arm for whom Manager Aaron Boone had to find a spot.

But Gray lost his place in the rotation early last month, reduced to being a long reliever and spot starter. Gray assumed the latter role Tuesday, though his first start since Aug. 25 was less about him and more about Luis Severino. Boone plugged in Gray to delay Severino’s next start until Wednesday, lining up Severino to face the American League East-leading Red Sox twice over the final two weeks of the season, then perhaps to start the A.L. wild-card game.

But Gray struggled with his command and lasted just three innings in a 10-5 loss to Minnesota Twins at Target Field. With the Oakland Athletics winning their fifth consecutive game, 3-2 in Baltimore, the Yankees saw their lead over the A’s for the first wild-card spot reduced to two games, with 16 left to play. The Yankees need every victory they can muster to ensure home field in the wild card game, and Boone felt that his team let this one slip away.

“We’ve got to do better,” Boone said. “We go out and lay an egg like that tonight, it’s — we did not play well all around. This is the time where we’ve got to play up to our capabilities and put our best foot forward every single day.”

A day after their 7-2 victory here, the Yankees fell behind by 10-1 to a Twins club it had beaten five consecutive times this season, and in 20 of 24 games since July 25, 2015. Boone had hoped for more from Gray, who pitched four effective innings of relief in Detroit in his last appearance, on Sept. 2, and tossed six and one-third scoreless innings in his previous spot start, a victory in Baltimore.

With a strong breeze rippling the back of his No. 55 jersey, Gray struggled against a tepid Twins lineup. He left after giving up three runs (two earned) in a 32-pitch third inning that featured two singles, two walks, a stolen base and a run-scoring passed ball — an unexpectedly high fastball that whistled off the glove of catcher Austin Romine.

For the third time this month the Twins used a so-called opener, reliever Tyler Duffey, to begin the game, with the traditional starter, Kohl Stewart, coming on in the third inning. The Yankees spotted Gray a 1-0 lead on a Gary Sanchez sacrifice fly in the second.

Gray escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second but was not so fortunate in the third, when the first three Twins batters reached base — two of them on walks. A two-run single by Jake Cave, a former Yankees farmhand, broke a 1-1 tie.

“You walk guys, it will kill you,” Gray said. “I think it’s proven for me over the course of this year. The more I walk guys, the more trouble I get myself in. I just really couldn’t find the zone.”

The first two relievers following Gray — Jonathan Loaisiga and Tommy Kahnle — weren’t much better. By the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees were nine runs behind and had exhausted all six of their mound visits.

Loaisiga gave up a two-out, two-strike double to Jorge Polanco in the fourth, walked in the first run in a six-run fifth, then left the game with two runs in and the bases loaded. Kahnle promptly allowed a grand slam to Joe Mauer to center field.

Didi Gregorius answered with his own grand slam in the top of the sixth, his fourth homer and second slam this season against Minnesota, this one off reliever Trevor May.

But the Yankees never put another runner on base, their last 11 batters going down in order. That leaves it to Severino, who lasted only two and two-thirds innings in losing his last start in Oakland, to get the Yankees on track in his start on Wednesday.

“Nobody here has pressure,” Severino said. “We have a great team and we’re winning a lot of games. We lost one game. We have to come back tomorrow and try to win a game.”


Aaron Judge took batting practice on the field for the second consecutive day, adding a few more swings than Monday, as he continues to work back from a broken bone in his right wrist. Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees hoped to increase Judge’s workload through the weekend before deciding what would come next. “We have a little bit of an idea of the timeline, but I’d rather it continue to unfold every day,” Boone said. … Boone opted for Austin Romine to catch for Sonny Gray, keeping Gary Sanchez in the lineup at designated hitter.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B10 of the New York edition with the headline: Gray Wilts in a Spot Start for the Yankees. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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