Game 15: TB vs. NYY — Bullpen, McCann, & Ellsbury for the win

Okay, the Yankees needed a night like tonight after the forgettable sweep earlier this week. The Rays came to the Bronx for a weekend series and put up a good fight. But the Yankees had a weird combination of McCann and Ellsbury with a dash of the Dynamic Duo and Nova in the bullpen to cobble together a win to start this weekend off right.

The Yankee looked to CC Sabathia to start tonight’s game. And Sabathia actually threw a decent game, but certainly struggled his way through a few tough spots. In the 2nd, with bases loaded and 2 outs, a nice double scored 2 runs for the Rays to kick things off. And a 2-out double scored on a long single to give the Rays their total runs for the evening. Despite just 80 pitches in just under 5 innings, the Yankees opted to open their bullpen to give Sabathia a rest from his struggles tonight, not that he was particularly happy about that.

To be fair, the Yankees’ bats weren’t exactly silent tonight (and the heavens rejoice). Teixeira led-off the 2nd inning with a single and was on base to watch Brian McCann’s solid 2-run home run sail over his head into the right field seats to get the Yankees on the board.

With the Yankees down a run and Sabathia just out at the top of the inning, the Yankees went into the 5th inning hoping for a miracle. That miracle happened to be named Jacoby Ellsbury. So with 2 outs, Ellsbury and Gregorius each singled to get on base. A balk moved both runners up during Gardner’s at-bat. And with a full count, the Rays’ starter threw a final ball to walk Gardner and while that ball was sailing towards home plate, from 3rd base came Ellsbury running down the line and sliding his right hand just under the tag of the Rays’ catcher for a highlight-worthy straight steal of home base to tie up the game.

Now, Sabathia handed over the ball to Ivan Nova who was just flawless tonight through his 31 pitches in 2.1 innings, just setting down the Rays with such ease. He handed over the lead (and eventual win) to the Dynamic Duo at the back-end of the bullpen who just continued to flame-throw their way through the 8th and 9th innings. Collectively, Betances and Miller threw just 23 pitches and got 5 strikeouts in their 2 innings. Once the bullpen was opened, not one Rays batter made it on base and thus never crossed home plate again. After the break down of yesterday’s bullpen, tonight’s proved yesterday was an anomaly. It’s good to be back in order.

In order for Nova to get that win and Miller his 4th save of the season, the Yankees had to break the tie. But like I said before, there was a little combination of McCann and Ellsbury to save the day. In the 6th, Beltran and Teixeira singled to lead off the inning, and Beltran scored on McCann’s single to break the tie. And in the 8th, Teixeira led-off with a single, stole 2nd and ended up on 3rd on a throwing error, and watched McCann work a walk to get on base. After a pitching change and a 2nd out, Ellsbury’s nice double scored both Teixeira and McCann, who scored before Ellsbury was tagged out trying to stretch it into 3 bases. But it was enough.

Final score: 6-3 Yankees.

Scranton Shuttle: Branden Pinder was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow strain, and reliever Nick Goody was called up as his replacement.

Injury alert: outfielder Aaron Hicks started the game to give Ellsbury a rest tonight, but attempting to catch a long fly ball in the 5th inning with a diving slide in left-center field. Hicks came out of the game with a sore shoulder and was replaced by none other than Ellsbury. This turned out okay as it was clearly Ellsbury’s offensive impact that made the difference in tonight’s game. No further tests were ordered for Hicks’ shoulder, but he is currently listed as day-to-day. In other words, they’re going to watch him and let him rest it some this weekend.

Really quick note on Ellsbury’s straight steal home: this is actually his 2nd successful straight steal home. The first came in 2009 when he was with the Red Sox — Pettitte was on the mound, the Yankees were in Boston at Fenway, and the young outfielder showed off his speed and panache ducking under the tag of Posada’s glove. The last Yankee to straight steal (and for some reason this surprised me) was Jeter in 2001 (against the Orioles), but the last Yankee to steal home of any kind (other than a wild pitch or passed ball) was Chris Young, on a double steal, in Baltimore, in 2014.

Milestone: CC Sabathia hit a couple of career milestones tonight with his strikeouts. He recorded his 2,584th strikeout to take sole possession of the 25th spot of all-time strikeout leaders. Next up: Braves’ Hall of Famer Glavine with 2,607. He also reached a career total of 3,000 innings pitched. Both amazing feats for the veteran starter.

Go Yankees!

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