With the Yankees on the road for 81 games of the season, you get a great look at different parts of this country, different cities all over. So when I do my daily recap, I try to pull in fun things from the host city so that while you may never set foot in the cities (though you should because traveling is amazing!), you can experience a taste of exotic cities like St. Louis, St. Paul, and St. Petersburg.
Anyway, one of the things I like to do is find out the city’s nickname. Sometimes they’re well-known (like the “Windy City”), sometimes they’re really repetitive (both Seattle and Cincinatti are known as the “Queen City”), sometimes they’re interesting (Kansas City is the “City of Fountains”), and sometimes they’re just weird. I came across this list for St. Petersburg (where the Rays play) and also for Tampa (because it’s the largest city in the area) — St. Petersburg: “Always in Season”, “The Burg”, “Sunshine City”, and just “St. Pete” (as all the locals call it); Tampa: “Cigar City”, the “Lightning Capital of the World”, “America’s Next Greatest City”, “City of Champions”, and (my personal favorite) “The Big Guava”.
So, as I write this blog from “The Big Guava”, I think over this weekend series that took place just across the bay in “Sunshine City”. (Sorry, but this has been a long weekend.) The Yankees fell out of 1st place and then earned it back upon today’s win (and Baltimore’s loss against Toronto) to be back in 1st by just a half-game.
CC Sabathia got the start in this afternoon’s finale against the Rays. Sabathia tends to do pretty well at Tropicana Field, so it was no surprise that he had a pretty strong outing today. He threw 95 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up just 4 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (only 1 earned), and striking out 6 Rays’ batters.
With 2 outs (both strikeouts) and 2 runners on base in the 1st inning, Gary Sanchez went for a pick-off attempt at 1st, but the throw was off and passed Carter to allow the lead runner to score from 2nd (the unearned run). And a 1-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the Rays’ score to bookend Sabathia’s outing.
The Yankees offense faced a really fantastic pitcher, the Rays’ ace and a player on my top 5 non-Yankees pitching list, who just dominated the Yankees’ lineup today. Honestly, throwing into just the 7th inning, he got the Yankees to swing into an impressive 12 strikeouts.
But the Yankees, being the team that they are this season, found their moments, and it paid off in the end. Easily the weakest inning of the Rays’ ace, the 2nd inning began with Ellsbury’s double. Didi Gregorious (who had a fantastic day, going 4-for-4 today) hit a 1-out single and scored Ellsbury. And it would be Brett Gardner to hit his 8th home run of the season, a 2-out, 2-run shot into the first row of the right field seats to give the Yankees the slim lead they wouldn’t surrender all game.
The Yankees bullpen had a strong showing today, especially with that slim lead they had to protect. Green, Clippard, and Betances finished off and split the final 4 innings of the game, keeping the Rays off the bases and away from home plate.
Final score: 3-2 Yankees, Rays win series 2-1.
The Yankees are now on their way back to the Bronx for their 7-game home stand, 4 games against the Royals and 3 against the Athletics. Plus, tomorrow kicks off HOPE Week, my favorite week of the year, where the Yankees honor local community organizations and outreaches, giving them a platform for their non-profit and a nice donation to continue their good work in the community.
Scranton Shuttle update: The Yankees called Bryan Mitchell back from AAA Scranton, sending Giovanni Gallegos back in exchange for a fresh arm in the bullpen. The bullpen continues to get a lot of work, but they are fairly strong and dominant this season. Something that clearly contributes to the fact that the Yankees are back on top of the AL East.