An interesting weekend of baseball at Yankee Stadium kicked off with Alex Rodriguez playing his final game. After getting that out of the way, all eyes would be focused on the 20-year celebration of the 1996 World Series team. Amidst all the hoopla, a pair of fresh faces in the dugout show the organization is firmly committed to giving prospects playing time down the stretch. Hopefully, the quality of baseball will match the excitement.
The end of an era
With A-Rod getting several ovations before the start of his final game and one very awkward pregame ceremony, the weather gods threatened to wash out the game. The ugly skies would clear up and after an hour or so delay, baseball would be played. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first, the Yankees would tie things up as Alex would rope an RBI double to right-center field.
C.C. Sabathia would get the start for the Yankees and seemingly pitched out of a jam every inning. Evan Longoria would be the main culprit for Tampa as he would hit a first inning solo home run and contribute an RBI single in the third, both hits giving the Rays the lead at the time. A sacrifice fly would plate the third run for Tampa. Sabathia would pitch 6.0 innings, giving up 4 hits and 3 runs, while striking out 7. Not a bad start, but the big guy really seemed to be working hard.
After A-Rod’s first inning excitement, Starlin Castro would take over the offensive heroics for the Yankees with one of his bigger games of the season. A two-run single in the fourth gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead and then a two-out, two-run home run in the sixth inning gave them the lead for good at 5-3. Aaron Hicks would add a solo blast in the seventh to round out the scoring as the Yankees would take the first game 6-3.
A-Rod would get his send off by playing one out in the field during the ninth inning before being replaced as the first inning double would be his only hit of the game. The Yankees had won their third game in a row and would look forward to the on-field celebration before Saturday’s game.
The Big Bang(s)
With Saturday’s celebration of the 1996 World Series bringing back fantastic memories for all, little did anyone know the history that was about to be made on the field once the game started. The Yankees had made a couple of roster moves in order to call up Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge. Both would be in the starting lineup and bat in the seventh and eighth positions. In the second inning, Austin would send a Chris Archer pitch just over the right field wall for a home run. Not to be outdone, Judge would crush a monster blow to dead center that would hit over the restaurant windows. It marked the first time in history that a pair of teammates had hit back-to-back home runs in their first major league at-bats. Quite a start and something that would have been hard to dream up before the game.
Masahiro Tanaka was on the bump on Saturday and were it not for Brad Miller, the game would been a blowout for the Yankees. Miller would hit a three-run home run in the fourth and add a solo shot in the sixth to account for all four runs the Rays would get. Tanaka would pitch 7.0 innings, only throwing 79 pitches in the process. He would strike out 8 and retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. Miller was the fly in the ointment that kept it from being a great start and possibly a complete game shutout.
The Yankee bats had plenty of pop in them on Saturday as Castro, Hicks, and Didi Gregorius would add home runs in the game. The home runs by Castro and Hicks were their second each in the last 24 hours, with Hicks blast landing in the second deck in right field. Hicks has certainly picked things up a notch since Carlos Beltran was traded away at the deadline as he is hitting .298 in that span. His playing time may diminish as Judge is going to get the regular at bats in right field the rest of 2016. Five home runs on the game, all by players 26 and younger. The quintet definitely helped to bring some extra excitement to the Stadium on Saturday and certainly makes the future look bright a lot sooner.
The 8-4 victory was the Yankees fourth in a row, which has only happened four times on the season. They will send Luis Severino to the mound Sunday seeking a series sweep. Severino was recalled after Nathan Eovaldi was placed on the disabled list with an elbow tendon injury.
Crashing to earth
The newly recalled Severino’s time back up with the big league club would prove to be short as the Rays would pounce on him for 8 hits and 7 runs in 3.2 innings of work. 0-8 with an 8.58 ERA as a starter certainly shows there is plenty more to be done than just a little refinement to his repertoire. The best thing for Severino at this point would be to finish the season in Scranton. He had success pitching in the bullpen, but has been unable to add a third pitch to the mix. He was unable to locate his fastball on Sunday, but did manage to strikeout 7 batters with a quality slider.
The offense was led by two of the Baby Bombers as Sanchez and Judge would collect home runs. For Judge, it was his second home run in as many big league games. He is only the second Yankee ever to accomplish the feat. Not much else went right for the Yankees on Sunday as they dropped the finale 12-3. Not much happening offensively and Severino and Luis Cessa combined to cough up the 12 runs in 6.2 innings.
The starting pitching is a bit of a problem at the moment as there is not much to offer past Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda. Chad Green is replacing Severino on the roster and will get the start against Toronto tonight. Like Severino, Green has fared much better out of the bullpen in his first taste of big league action. The Yankees four game win streak came to a half and they also fell a game further back in the wild card standings.