Gray avoided taking the loss — it went to reliever Domingo German — but he lasted only one out into the fourth inning and the mystery of his Yankees tenure continued. So effective for nearly five seasons in Oakland, he has been largely unrecognizable since he joined the Yankees at the trade deadline last season.
“We got to circle the wagons around him and help him get through this because he’s important to us,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “This was tough tonight.”
Twice on Friday, the Yankees staked Gray to two-run leads, once on a home run by Giancarlo Stanton, who had not gone deep in more than two weeks. Gray promptly gave each lead back in the next inning.
And after a tidy first inning in which he needed just 10 pitches, Gray quickly lapsed into a bad pattern — deep pitch counts, walks and ultimately another short outing. He allowed five runs on five hits, walking four and striking out none.
“I think anytime you walk that many guys, it’s going to come back to bite you sooner or later,” Gray said. “I just kind of fell apart there in the middle innings.”
Boone acknowledged concern about the lack of velocity on Gray’s fastball, which was clocked between 90 and 91 miles per hour, but said he believed that Gray was healthy.
“It just seemed like he couldn’t reach back for much more,” Boone said.
Gray, too, dismissed any suggestion that he was injured. He had spent a significant amount of time on the disabled list in 2016 with trapezius and forearm strains.
“It’s 40 degrees outside,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s throwing as hard as they will be in the middle of the summer.”
Despite the frigid weather, the ball was flying out of Yankee Stadium as if it were a steamy July night.
With a runner aboard in the second inning, Tyler Austin hit his third home run of the season to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. He hit it off the Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada, who also surrendered Austin’s two other homers in the second game of the season.
But in the top of the third, Gray gave up a walk and then a two-run homer by Teoscar Hernandez.
The Yankees regained the lead with two runs on Stanton’s homer, his fourth of the season — a line drive into the right-field seats. The shot ended a homer-less streak of 50 at-bats for Stanton. He never went more than 20 at-bats without a homer in 2017, when he led baseball with 59 home runs for the Miami Marlins and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
But Gray gave that lead back, too, on back-to-back doubles and then a two-run single by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who was making his major league debut after being called up from Class AA earlier in the day. The Yankees tied the game on Miguel Andujar’s solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, but German allowed two runs in the fifth — one on another single by Gurriel — and then a solo home run to Yangervis Solarte in the sixth.
But the real concern for the Yankees centers on Gray, who was expected to be their No. 3 starter behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Now, after four starts, his E.R.A. stands at an unsightly 8.27.