Okay, usually the games that are harder to write about are the ones where the Yankees get pummeled or the ones they basically hand over to their opponent. Today was the exact opposite, but what makes this difficult to write is where to start on what essentially was a game-long string of highlights. Honestly, the Yankees were the full package tonight at the Trop against the Rays — pitching, hitting, defense, everything. And this was coming off a very late night flight from New York to Tampa.
So I guess I’ll start at the beginning…
CC Sabathia took the mound and started in on the Rays with very little weakness. Over his 7 innings, he threw 107 pitches, allowed 7 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and striking out 6 batters. The first run came in the 4th inning, after a sweep double play and a runner on 3rd, a passed ball allowed the runner to score just under the diving Sabathia trying to make the tag. (I think I was more intrigued with Sabathia diving into home to make the tag than the fact that the run scored.) Then the Rays’ lead-off batter in the 7th planted a solo home run for the second and final Rays run.
Dellin Betances came on in relief in the 8th inning and got himself into a bit of trouble, walking 2 batters, but he was able to pitch out of the inning and come back to close out the 9th with a quick 3 outs. He was certainly more Betances-like in the 9th, and it paid off, keeping those Rays from ever coming near the Yankees.
Now, I will say the Yankees’ defense was just flawless tonight, even with Scott Sizemore playing first base for the first time in his entire life. He even had to borrow a 1st baseman’s glove from Kelly Johnson. Lots of defensive action tonight: Ichiro’s sliding grab, Jeter’s diving stop, or the other one that started a double play, and Beltran’s tumble over the right field wall that had everyone concerned for a bit (but he’s fine, just banged up a little).
But the highlight everyone’s talking about is their 2nd inning triple play. Let me preface this first with the fact that the last 2 triple plays have been while Sabathia was on the mound. A standard 5-4-3 one in 2010 and the ridiculously awesome 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play last year (my personal favorite). (Before 2010, the Yankees hadn’t made a triple play since 1968.) And then there was tonight’s. A lead-off double and a walk put runners on base, and then a groundout directly to Solarte who stepped on 3rd, fired to Roberts at 2nd, and then Sizemore at 1st for the “standard” 5-4-3 triple play. They are very rare indeed, but a lot of fun to watch. Well, if your team benefits from them, that is.
The Yankees offense just pounced on the Rays’ ace and never looked back. In the 1st inning, Ellsbury singled, and 2 outs later, McCann singled him home. In the 2nd inning (which turned out to be one long Yankee highlight reel), Sizemore doubled, Brian Roberts tripled in Sizemore, Jacoby Ellsbury also tripled to score Roberts, and Derek Jeter singled in Ellsbury. It was hit central at the top, and defense mania at the bottom, easily one of the highest points of the game.
Going into the 5th, the Yankees were up 4-1. With 2 outs, Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann each hit their own solo home runs, back-to-back (Soriano went to left field, McCann to right). In the 6th, Brian Roberts led off with a double and scored on Ellsbury’s sacrifice fly. Then in the 7th, with 2 outs again, McCann, on base due to a throwing error, scored on Roberts’ soft single.
And then it was the 9th inning, and the Yankees were firmly in the lead with a score of 8-2. Soriano led-off with a single. Then Yangervis Solarte stepped up to the plate and hit an 83 mph curveball deep into the right field seats for his first career MLB home run, and a 2-run homer at that. Solarte was also the one whose quick defensive thinking initiated that 2nd inning triple play. There was a scout in Texas that didn’t think Solarte would amount to much because he hit “some” and didn’t play defense that well. I think somewhere in Texas, someone is very, very wrong and/or very, very fired.
And the score was 10-2 Yankees. And it was an entire highlight reel of a game for them.
Look, I get that the Rays have been hit hard with a recent string of injuries – one of their really better starting pitchers will be out the whole season with Tommy John surgery and 2 other starters are also on the DL at least a month. And I’m not a huge fan of “blow-out games”, even if the team I’m rooting for is winning.
But what made it a great game was the way the Yankees played. They were tight and together, a team in every sense of the way, everyone contributing and hustling and making great plays. Usually, only a couple of guys stand out for that, but tonight, no one stood out because everyone was doing that. They were a team, and it’s teams that win games, teams that win titles, teams that win championships. I like this team.