The Yankees and Rays are in the Bronx this holiday weekend to duke it out over the battle for dominance in the AL East. Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore all lost their games today, so that meant that whichever team won in the Bronx would enter the Fourth as the AL East leader.
Let me take a moment to remind everyone that New York was considered the United States’ first capital city, as Washington was inaugurated and the entirety of his tenure as President was served out of this city, only moving south to D.C. towards the end of Adams’ presidency as it took the workers a very long time to dredge through the swampland and build the White House. And going into this important holiday in American history, let me remind you the only reason New York abstained from voting for independence was because they hadn’t heard back from their local delegates who were caught behind enemy lines trying to get back to Philadelphia to get the information that the people in New York were desperate for independence with the intensity of British soldiers in their midst.
And enough of the history lesson… for tonight. After 12 innings, the Yankees currently sit atop the AL East division by 1 game. It’s a slim margin, but a lead is a lead. And I’m well aware this could all change tomorrow. But I hope instead that lead keeps growing.
Allow me to give credit where credit is due. The Rays sent the pitcher who is easily their best starter. While earning a high pitch count of 122 over his 6.2 innings, he only allowed the Yankees 3 hits, walked 3 batters, gave up no runs, and struck out 8 Yankee batters. I don’t always credit the opposing pitchers, but he was really good. I’ve seen him pitch before and in person, and he is very consistent and deserves the credit. Though he ended up throwing a no-decision, which is always a better way to end up than a loss.
Masahiro Tanaka knows that well, as he also pitched a no-decision, thanks to some late-game run-support that blew the opposing starter’s chance at the win. Tanaka threw 96 pitches (a bit more efficient than the Rays, but still a bit high) for just 6 innings, gave up 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. And despite those numbers, Tanaka really only had one bad inning — his 1st. A lead-off double and a walk would then score on an RBI double and a sacrifice fly, respectively. He maintained that 2 run lead the Rays had until the 5th, when a lead-off triple scored on a sacrifice fly.
The Rays sat at 3-0 lead going into the 8th inning, just counting down the outs until they could go back to the hotel winners. Boy, were those numbers and thoughts off. With 1 out, Headley and Rodriguez on base with singles (Chase Headley marking his 1,000th career hit on his single), Mark Teixeira hit his 20th home run of the season, a 3-run home run into the 2nd deck in right field to tie up the score. The Yankees made several attempts following this to get another runner to cross the plate, but to no success.
Capuano, Rumbelow, and Betances did their parts keeping the Rays from re-taking the lead, and with no other Yankee runs coming in, the game was headed into extra inning. Wilson started the 10th inning for the Yankees before handing the ball over to Adam Warren. Warren closed out the 10th and threw a pretty good 11th, but he got into some trouble in the 12th inning. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt, and that would spell the end to Warren’s night. In came Chasen Shreve for the final 2 outs, but he too found himself in trouble; Shreve had trouble finding the strike zone, and when he did, the ball lingered too long for smart hitters to hit safely. Back-to-back RBI singles score 2 more runs for the Rays with 1 out, and a bases loaded situation put on the pressure. But a ground-into-a-double-play quickly solved that issue.
And that handed the game back over to the Yankees having to recover a now 2-run deficit to stay alive. Gardner led-off with a walk and moved to 3rd on Rodriguez’s 1-out single. (Petit would pinch-run for Rodriguez.) Teixeira singled to score Gardner, and put the Yankees within 1 run. It would be Brian McCann’s monster 3-run home run for a walk-off to end the game with a bang.
Always love the big dramatic walk-off home runs, with the cheers and celebrations and the helmet flip and the Gatorade shower (purple this time, my favorite) and the near pandemonium of the crowd staying until the very end, their hopes met and alive once again. And the Yankees back on top of the AL East where they belong.
Final score: 7-5 Yankees.
Roster moves (still receptive to your ideas for a name): Gregorio Petit and Ramon Flores were called back up to replace Carlos Beltran (sent to the DL with an oblique strain) and Tyler Dugas (who they optioned).
When Alex Rodriguez hit his 3,000th hit last month, the home run ball hit into the stands was caught by a guy who didn’t want to give it up no matter what kind of conversation the Yankees tried to pull to get Rodriguez back his milestone ball. The fan is a well-known autograph and memorabilia seeker, even writing a book on how to catch foul balls and the like at the park. After some negotiations, the fan and the Yankees agreed to make a large donation to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity the fan has supported for years. Rodriguez also gifted him with some personalized memorabilia to add to his collection.
And there was some talk earlier this season as to what the Yankees would consider “milestones” in Rodriguez’s career that, according to his contract, should be an automatic bonus in his paycheck. For example: does passing a certain player count or is it the actual number that matters (660 vs. 700)? Instead, the Yankees and Rodriguez’s people came to an agreement and decided to donate any potential “bonus money” to some deserving charities. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, and Pitch In For Baseball each receive $1 million, and the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Foundation receives $2.5 million. This is reflective of Rodriguez’s own charitable habits he has displayed through his career, like his contributions and scholarships created at the University of Miami.