ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) delivers a pitch during the regular season MLB game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays on September 27, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Facing the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees made huge strides toward hosting the Oakland A’s for the AL Wild Card game on October 3. Taking the season series 10-9, the Yankees bested the Rays at their own game on the mound and no amount of catwalks or speakers could stop their lineup from knocking the ball out of the park.
When the lights came back on at Tropicana Field, the Yankees gave the Rays a taste of their own medicine with a “bullpening” game. The strategy paid dividends and New York pulled off a 4-1 victory.
Andrew McCutchen broke the ice during the third inning, taking Hunter Wood deep to left on a full count fastball. The solo shot staked the Bronx Bombers to a 1-0 edge.
Jonathan Holder served as “the opener,” on a night where the Yankees used eight pitchers. Their overall ledger was pretty impressive, yielding only one run, two hits, six walks and 13 K’s. Holder and Stephen Tarpley worked a scoreless inning apiece. Sonny Gray was credited with the victory, pitching two innings (which makes one wonder why he wasn’t used Sunday). Tampa’s only run came in the fourth. Tommy Pham doubled off Gray, Gary Sanchez allowed a passed ball, Joey Wendle singled to first, as Luke Voit checked the runner but got caught in no man’s land. Gray rebounded with a double-play ball off the bat of Brandon Lowe, which plated the lone Rays run and recorded a strikeout against Austin Meadows.
When you need the door closed 1/9th of the way, you call…THE OPENER.
After Aaron Hicks left with a tight hamstring, the Yankees placed Brett Gardner in center-field. Gardner looked fresh and contributed at the plate, on the base paths and in the field. In the fifth frame, Aaron Judge coaxed a two-out walk and advanced to second base on a passed ball by Rays catcher Nick Ciuffo. A soft liner to center by Gardner, off Ryan Yarbrough, plated Judge for a 2-1 lead. Giancarlo Stanton doubled the lead by drilling an RBI-double to left.
After Chad Green whiffed the side in the fifth, David Robertson was brought on in the sixth.
With two on and two out, in an inning which included another passed ball by Sanchez, Gardner robbed Lowe of an extra-base hit and preserved the Yankees lead.
Aroldis Chapman fanned a pair with a sharp slider in the seventh.
Dellin Betances worked a flawless frame during the eighth but had his consecutive-game strikeout streak ended at 44.
Potential history denied? Dellin Betances did not record a K in the 8th, so if he does not pitch the 9th, his streak of consecutive relief appearances with a K will end at an AL-record 44. #YANKSonYESpic.twitter.com/PXPOcc5NLn
Zach Britton was filthy, although he needed four outs, fanned three and sealed the victory.
Once again the Yankees put the pedal to the metal against a Rays team which looks like it has run out of gas. Hanging a crooked number and receiving contributions from some interesting sources made for a 9-2 victory.
After making a rare error in the second inning, Adeiny Hechavarria displayed why his bat is “obviously” the reason he’s in the lineup in the third. Leading off the third inning, Hechavarria hammered a solo shot to left off Jake Faria, providing New York with a 1-0 edge. Gardner, who looks refreshed, followed with a triple to right. McCutchen, the ensuing batter, coaxed a free pass. With one down and Andrew Kittredge on for the Rays, Voit doubled to left and plated Gardner. Kittredge intentionally walked Stanton and his night was done.
Neil Walker followed by drawing an RBI-walk off Jalen Beeks. Miguel Andujar lifted a sac fly RBI to right. Capping off the inning was Sanchez, whose four-RBI evening was his finest output in quite some time. El Gary crushed a three-run homer to left-center for home run No. 17 on the campaign, staking the Yankees to a 7-0 advantage.
Sanchez would also drive in a run with a single in the fifth.
LINGER LONGER LUIS
It wasn’t as impressive as his last start against Boston but Luis Severino showed enough to keep his name in the conversation and maybe in the lead for the AL Wild Card game. There were times when Severino was hit hard when he was unable to locate his fastball. In the third, Wendle smoked a double to right, Pham was hit by a pitch Ji-Man Choi coaxed a free pass and Lowe drilled a two-run double, which could’ve been worse if Choi hadn’t been cut down at the plate. Aside from the third, when Sevy was sharp, he was virtually un-hittable. Severino fanned seven in five frames, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks. Touching off the evening, Severino whiffed Pham on a 98 mph fastball and Jake Bauers on a 98 mph fastball as well.
It’s a tantalizing high risk/reward proposition. If Severino is throwing darts, he can’t be touched and yet if he’s not precise, you run the risk of a big inning, which could be more of a killer against the Oakland A’s in a Wild Card game instead of say the Minnesota Twins in 2017. It’s an interesting discussion, to say the least.
GRABBING THE BULL BY THE HORNS
Stephen Tarpley, Domingo German and even Tommy Kahnle, were making some noise out of the bullpen. Tarpley displayed why he should be considered a weapon against lefty’s in the postseason, retiring both hitters he faced. German also showed flashes his potential from earlier in the season, whiffing four in two scoreless frames. Kahnle also fanned three in his 1.1 frames.
DU THE DU
Topping off the Yanks offensive output was Andujar in the ninth. Facing former Yankees southpaw Vidal Nuno, Andujar jacked home run No. 26 of his rookie campaign to left.
Ending on an oddity for this game, if it’s not a power outage or a catwalk, it’s the turf. As McCutchen found out in the sixth inning, the trials and travails of the Trop. Thankfully McCutchen wasn’t hurt and lived to joke about it.
Wednesday’s affair was a weird contest. A lot of action at the book ends and about 8,000 pitching changes in the middle. Unfortunately, it was too little too late for the Yankees, as the came up short against the Rays 8-7.
NEIL WALKER, HOME RUN KNOCKER
Following a McCutchen single and a Stanton walk, Walker smoked a three-run home run to center off Ryne Stanek, staking the Bronx Bombers to a 3-0 advantage. It looked like the Yankees would be on their way.
If this was an AL Wild audition for Masahiro Tanaka, he didn’t pass. Tanaka allowed Tampa right back into the game in the bottom of the first. Mallex Smith singled to left and stole second. Matt Duffy followed with a walk. Wendle plated Smith with an RBI-single to center. Following a strikeout of Pham, Tanaka was his own worst enemy, firing a potential double-play ball into the outfield, allowing C.J. Cron to reach on the force attempt and enabled Duffy to score. After Kevin Kiermaier was hit by a pitch, Willy Adames plated Wendle with a single to third. Tanaka would fan the next two but the damage was done.
During the third inning, Tanaka surrendered a solo leadoff homer to center to Pham and the Rays took a 4-3 lead.
On his full ledger, Tanaka lasted four frames, allowing four runs on six hits and one walk. If he makes a postseason start, it likely won’t be until the ALDS at Fenway Park.
WHEELS FALL OFF
As the offense stalled, the bullpen kept the game within striking distance until the eighth inning. David Robertson was rocky and Justus Sheffield made a rookie mistake. Robertson walked Pham and yielded an RBI-double to center to Cron. Following a passed ball by Sanchez, Cron advanced to third and was pinch-run for by Andrew Velazquez. Velazquez scored on the crack of the bat by Adames, beating the Andujar throw home on the fielder’s choice. Jake Bauers singled to right, moving Adames to third. Ciuffo reached on a bunt single to first, which plated Adames.
With Sheffield entering the contest, Smith reached on a force out. On a pickoff attempt, Sheffield threw wide of first, enabling Bauers to score. While the inning was mostly on Robertson, the errant pickoff throw would prove to be the deciding run.
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
Facing Sergio Romo in the ninth, the Yankees nearly mounted a wild comeback. Sanchez set the table with a walk. Following a Torres strikeout, Gardner singled to center, McCutchen singled to left and Judge lined an RBI-single to left. Voit nearly had a grand slam but had to settle for a two-run single to center, above the head of Smith. With runners on the corners, an infield single to third by Stanton plated Judge.
A 2-run knock makes things very interesting as the deficit falls to 2 runs.
However, Tyler Wade would fly out to right and Andujar fouled out to the third baseman Wendle to end the game.
As they did on Wednesday, the Yankees jumped all over the Rays in the early going but this time they did not let up and the end result was a matinee mashing in an 11-1 victory.
The Bronx Bombers opened a can on Tampa opener Jaime Schultz. Gardner set the table with a double to right. With one out, Voit and Stanton each coaxed one-out walks. A wild pitch by Schultz enabled Gardner to scamper home.
With two down Andujar smoked a three-run laser to left, for home run No. 27, increasing the New York lead to 4-0.
In the fourth frame, the New York offense added on. Facing Austin Pruitt, Torres singled and advanced to second base on a passed ball by Jesus Sucre. Austin Romine followed with an RBI-single to left. Hechavarria followed with a single to shortstop. After Gardner grounded into a force out, Judge plated Romine on a sacrifice fly to center. After Gardner swiped second, Voit drove him home with a double to center, making it 7-0.
During the sixth, the Yankees made Andrew Kittredge pay for throwing behind Romine, in retaliation for Bauers being hit in the fifth. Hechavarria started yet another rally with another infield single. Gardner, the ensuing batter, tripled to center, scoring Hechavarria. Another sacrifice fly by Judge sent home Gardner.
Breaking out the big bats were Voit and Stanton, each going deep to center in consecutive at-bats.
CC Sabathia may not have earned a $500,000 dollar bonus from not reaching the seventh inning but he may have earned himself a spot in Monument Park. Sabathia was sharp and rolling along, not allowing a hit a Wendle single to left against the shift with two outs in the fourth frame.
Starting off the sixth, Sabathia plunked the leadoff batter Sucre and was ejected from the game. Sabathia sent a message loud and clear, appearing to mouth, “that’s for you, b***h,” as he left the mound.
Sabathia might’ve also earned himself a postseason start, hurling five frames of scoreless ball with five K’s, one hit and zero walks. Perhaps his teammates will pass around a collection hat for that $5ooK.
After Cron hit a solo home run off Luis Cessa in the seventh, Stanton struck back in the ninth. Stanton’s solo smash to right off Hoby Milner was his second of the contest and No. 37 on the campaign. The home run gave the Bronx Bombers 260 as a club, placing them five away from breaking the record of 264 set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.