Taking a trip to Tropicana Field, the New York Yankees took care of business against the Tampa Bay Rays. Walking into a house of horrors against a first-place club and beating two of the better pitchers in the junior circuit thus far is quite the feat. New York took two of three and has won seven of its last eight series. The starting pitching was nice, the Yankees keep getting healthier and this is going to be one hell of a fun fight for the pennant!
This game was a weird but fulfilling 4-3 Yankees victory. It was low scoring but didn’t feel like a clean crisp pitchers duel. The power went out. Gary Sanchez hit the roof. There were runs scored on errors and game-saving defense. Balks that weren’t balks. DJ LeMahieu didn’t record a hit. New York battled back and gutted out the final few frames.
New York broke through against Tyler Glasnow right away in the first frame. LeMahieu reached on a throwing error by third baseman Yandy Diaz. Following a Luke Voit walk, Sanchez singled off the glove of shortstop Willy Adames and into left field. With one down a passed ball by catcher Nick Ciuffo enabled LeMahieu to score. A soft single to right by Gleyber Torres doubled the lead to 2-0.
Viernes German wasn’t quite as dominant as Domingo German but he more than gave the Yankees a fighting chance to win. On his ledger, German whiffed five across five frames, yielding three runs on five hits and two walks.
The big trouble came in the fifth inning. Adames ripped a double to left. With one down, Austin Meadows knotted the contest at two by crushing a home run to right-center. Tampa took a 3-2 lead with a two-out tater to dead center by ex-Yankee first baseman Ji-Man Choi.
AY DIOS MIO, THERE GOES THAT GIO!
The Yankees popped right back in the sixth. Sanchez reached on a single to short and by short I mean hitting a ring around the roof and landing at short. Clint Frazier followed with a single to center. After Torres struck out, Glasnow left the game with an injury.
I haven’t seen a Gio have a spring like this since Stephen Gionta came up from Albany and helped the New Jersey Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
OTTO’S TROP TIGHTROPE
After Tommy Kahnle‘s brilliant changeup and slider yielded two K’s in a scoreless sixth, Adam Ottavino‘s seventh was much less smooth. Loading the bases with a bout of wildness, Ottavino’s whiffle ball slider wasn’t moving as much in the dead air of the dome. Ottavino was able to win a battle against Tommy Pham, coaxing him into chasing ball four outside. Then Ottavino got Choi to bang into a 1-4-3 inning-ending double-play on a brilliant turn by LeMahieu, off a deflection from Ottavino.
Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman were able to bolt down the Rays in the eighth and ninth respectively. After allowing a soft single to Diaz, Britton was able to get pinch-hitter, Daniel Robertson, to wrap into a 6-4-3 double play on a nasty sinker and whiffed Avisail Garcia on a slider.
Two of Chapman’s three outs came via the strikeout, including a 100 mph staredown special to Meadows to close out the victory.
It’s odd how one can be fighting for first place and be tied in the sixth inning and essentially throw up a white flag but that’s what happened. The Yankees seriously need Dellin Betances and the 2017 version of Chad Green, pronto.
Jonathan Holder started the sixth by issuing a hit to Garcia. Holder was able to record the next two outs but then all hell broke loose.
Garcia stole second on a throw which was low but beat him to the bag and one could argue LeMahieu could’ve gotten there faster. Alas, the error was charged to Sanchez and Garcia moved to third. After a walk to Guillermo Heredia, Adames singled to second, beating the shift and scoring Garcia. The ensuing batter Choi also singled to second and plated Heredia.
In the eighth, Nestor Cortes Jr. became the new Jake Barrett, aka the sacrificial lamb and gave up a three-run bomb to right-center for Diaz’s second home run on the evening.
It’s not how you start but how you finish and the Yankees finished strong against the Rays, even after a 43-minute delay from a power outage. The pitcher’s duel turned into a cakewalk for New York.
PUTTING THE BREAKS ON BLAKE
Blake Snell was rifling through the New York batting order, at one point whiffing six straight swinging and 12 in 5.2 frames.
Yet, the second time around the Yankee order was in “Fifth Harmony” and made him go to work. With two outs in the fifth frame, the “replacements” made their last stand. Austin Romine, playing for Sanchez, who took a backswing whack on the top of his catcher’s mask the night before, doubled to left. Tauchman, with Aaron Hicks looming, nearly drilled a homer to dead center, trading places with Romine for the 1-0 edge.
Masahiro Tanaka certainly pitched up to the task of matching Snell and looking the part of an ace. According to Katie Sharp, Tanaka threw his splitter 27 times and rendered the Rays to a .182 clip with three K’s. Tanaka also had the slider working as well. On his ledger, which also thankfully went a deep seven innings, included seven K’s, five scattered hits and one home run, a requisite solo home run to center by Meadows in the sixth.
Romine and Tauchman laced consecutive singles and were bunted over by LeMahieu. After Voit was intentionally walked, Urshela shook off a golden sombrero and knocked a two-run double to right. Gardner capped off the scoring with a sac fly to center.
So, apparently, the Triple-A coaching staff was able to get Green straightened out. Green fanned Lowe on three consecutive four-seam fastballs, Garcia on a slider set up by the fastball and fastballs to Kevin Kiermaier. This is exactly what I said on Green when you’re a fastball pitcher, you attack with the fastball and you air it out and he did precisely that. It’s a huge boost for the Yankee bullpen if Green has righted the ship.