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Series Recap: Yankees wrestle first place from Rays

Don’t question the methods, just enjoy the results. The New York Yankees are back where they belong, atop the AL East. Battling all weekend long, the pinstripes took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the fifth straight series victory for the Yankees and capped off a 4-1 homestand.

GAME 1

On Game of Thrones night, the Yankees found themselves sitting right where they belong, atop the AL East standings. After some lulls against the bullpening Rays and a 35-minute rain delay, the Yankees elevated their focus and their toughness to come away with a 4-3 walk-off win in the ninth inning.

BEND THE KNEE

At least that’s what I thought CC Sabathia said to the Rays. We’re all going to miss CC randomly swearing at the Rays next season. The big lefty registered his longest outing thus far of the campaign, logging six strong, scattering six hits, two walks, fanning four. The only blip on Sabathia’s evening was a solo home run to left by Willy Adames in the fourth inning. Sabathia had his cutter and slider working, fanning the last two batters he faced in the sixth.

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KEN DO ATTITUDE

On an evening which David Cone, along with Jack Curry, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Coney’s old number, 36, still had some magic in it.

During the second stanza, Kendrys Morales crushed his first home run in pinstripes, smoking a solo bomb to right off Ryne Stanek. The home run staked the Bronx Bombers to a 1-0 lead.

INTERESTING BULLPEN MOVES

After using both Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle in a scoreless seventh inning, Chad Green entered in the eighth inning.

With one down, Green yielded a double to right by Daniel Robertson. After recording a second pop out, Green allowed a booming RBI-double to left-center by Brandon Lowe. A Kevin Kiermaier single to short and lawn dart throw by Gleyber Torres enabled the Rays to increase their advantage to 3-1.

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So, perhaps Green isn’t quite all the way back yet.

Although, Jonathan Holder did work a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts, so, that worked out.

HOP TO IT

If Freddy Sez was still around, he’d probably have a sign that says, “Yankees and Luke hop to it!”

Facing Jose Alvarado in the ninth, Luke Voit, who broke out of his slump against Baltimore, busted out the whooping stick with a solo bomb to right-center.

Gary Sanchez followed by ripping a single to left.

With pinch runner Thairo Estrada on first and one down, Torres battled in a hell of an at-bat and double off the wall in left on the tenth pitch of the at-bat.

Following an intentional walk to Clint Frazier, Alvarado uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Estrada and tying the contest at three.

Cameron Maybin would follow by reaching on a fielder’s choice but Torres was cut down at the plate. Maybin would steal second base.

With two down Gio Urshela drilled a 2-0 pitch to right to plate Frazier for the walk-off winner. This dude is incredible like Scott Brosius meets Luis Sojo, timely hitting, incredible.

GAME 2

There wasn’t much hitting or scoring to speak of in a matinee pitcher’s duel. The Yankees had their opportunities but the metaphorical clock ran out on them in a 2-1 defeat in 11 innings.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

During the third inning, the pinstripes plated their lone run of the contest off Blake Snell. Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu reached on consecutive singles and Voit coaxed a free pass. With two outs a Snell wild pitch enabled Gardner to score for the 1-0 edge.

DO YOU EVEN REPLAY?

I’ll never understand how calls are still botched with instant replay but here we are. In the fourth frame, Urshela reached on a single and attempted to steal second base but was ruled out on the field and the call was upheld after the challenge.

CUT DOWN

Starting the sixth, Aaron Hicks, who had a two-hit afternoon, reached second after Snell whipped a nubber into right-field. With two down, Torres singled to left but Hicks was cut down at the plate by Meadows to end the threat.

MASA MAGICAL

Masahiro Tanaka was an absolute witch again vs. the Rays, striking out the side right off the rip with a strong fastball and a solid slide piece. Toiling six strong, Tanaka whiffed six, allowing zero runs, zero walks and three hits. Tanaka might’ve gone deeper but with two outs in the sixth took a Yandy Diaz shot off the leg, which deflected to Voit at first base for the out. X-Rays were negative but Tanaka left the game with a right shin bruise.

RAYS PLAY LONGBALL

Tampa was able to break through in the seventh, Brandon Lowe wasn’t waiting around for Kahnle to strike him out on a vaunted changeup and deposited the first-pitch fastball into the right-field bleachers to tie the contest at one.

In the eleventh, the Yankee killer Meadows drilled a 2-2 slider to the Meadowlands off Luis Cessa for the eventual 2-1 winner.

GAME 3

Manager Aaron Boone knew if he gambled early with the underbelly of the bullpen that it would give the pinstripes enough time to rally back. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. A topsy turvy game, which included Sanchez’s first career triple, and Urshela fouling a pitch in the ground, turned into a blowout and the Yankees wrestled back first place with a 13-5 triumph.

NOPE-NER

Perhaps the Yankees were trolling the Rays on the one-year anniversary they rolled out the opener strategy. They nearly got away with it too. Unfortunately, staked to a 1-0 with two outs in the second stanza, Green got porched on consecutive solo homers to right by Kiermaier and Adames. Green would only retire five of the nine batters he faced.

Nestor Cortes Jr. did settle down with six K’s in four frames after yielding a three-run homer to Lowe in the third.

It wasn’t the most ideal setup but like I said it was early enough for the Yankees to battle back.

MAULING MORTON

Given how Charlie Morton had stymied the Yankees as a member of the Houston Astros, it was refreshing to see the Bronx Bombers grind him to the bone. Morton needed 88 pitches to toil through four innings.

A Morales single to right staked the Yankees to a 1-0 lead in the first frame.

Gardner showed he still had a pulse in the second with a two-run tater to right, his seventh of the season.

Hicks hit one to the sticks in the fourth with a two-run bomb to right, squaring the contest at five.

UNCONVENTIONAL RALLY

Not that anything was conventional about this game but the scrappy Yankees tortured the Rays in the sixth inning.

Gardner reached on a ball deflected to second by pitcher Diego Castillo and stole second to set the table. Fraizer walked. LeMahieu oddly chose to bunt and popped out. Yet Hicks and Voit would grind out free passes and give the Yankees a 6-5 advantage.

After Frazier tried to take home on a pitch in the dirt but was thrown out, Ryne Stanek intentionally walked Sanchez to re-load the bases. Morales followed with an RBI-walk. Torres plated a run with an infield single which Choi squeezed at first but not with his glove.

With Casey Sadler on, Thairo Estrada ripped a bases-clearing double to left on a ball that would’ve ricocheted and kicked out off the concrete corner of the old Yankee Stadium but lodged in the corner of the current one, making for an 11-5 advantage.

Gardner would swap places with an RBI-double to right, increasing the lead to 12-5.

NO BUNTS ALLOWED

This one’s for Frank Marco and Keith Law and really anyone who wanted to see LeMahieu swing away.

Facing Sadler in the seventh, LeMahieu swung away and connected on a solo bomb to left and capped off the scoring at 13-5.

TAKE A CHANCE ON ME

As I said in our Facebook BP Chat, I would’ve started Chance Adams because well he’s a starter and had a few solid outings of late at Triple-A. It turned out he was the closer, proving how stupid the save rule is in an eight-run game but I digress. Adams proved more than useful, as the pinstripes only needed to use an elite reliever, Ottavino for one out in the sixth. Oh and Ottavino earned the victory with that 0.1 laborious outing.

Adams whiffed four in three scoreless frames and registered the save.

ON DECK

At 28-17, the Yankees travel to Baltimore and take on the Baltimore Orioles for a four-game series starting Monday evening.

Pitching probables, J.A. Happ vs. Andrew Cashner, Domingo German vs. David Hess, TBD vs. TBD, TBD vs. TBD.

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