In the tooth drama and the weekend, one thing that seemed to get lost is the fact that Yankee Universe got to wake up this morning in 1st place in the AL East. Yes, readers, the Yankees are on top and holding.
So, the Yankees asked young starter Caleb Smith to start this third game of this 4-game weekend series against the visiting Rays. Smith threw 71 pitches into the 4th inning, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and 2 runs, striking out 4 Rays batters. He gave up a lead-off solo homer to start the game and give the Rays an early lead. And in the 3rd, with 1 out, Smith loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk so that the lead runner scored on a sacrifice fly.
Adam Warren closed out the 4th and gave up a 2-out solo shot in the 5th to give the Rays the lead. And Betances and Kahnle kept the Rays scoreless through the 6th and 7th innings, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Yankees played a little catch-up. In the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led-off with a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ sacrifice fly. Sanchez then added to the Yankees’ score with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. And Matt Holliday led-off with a single in the 6th and ended up scoring as part of pinch-hitter Chase Headley’s 2-run home run to the left field seats to put the Yankees in the lead.
David Robertson came on to set-up the 8th inning for the Yankees’ win. But he gave up a lead-off solo home run to tie up the game for the Rays. He regrouped and got through the inning, despite the blown save, before handing the game over to Aroldis Chapman, who sailed through the Rays in a 13-pitch 9th inning.
So, it was back to the Yankees for that last-minute hope to do something awesome. And they did in the bottom of the 9th. With a new reliever on the mound, Headley led-off the inning by working a walk. Ellsbury came in to pinch-run for him and promptly stole 2nd base. Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Torreyes singled to load up the bases. And with no outs yet in the inning, the Rays pulled their closer for a new reliever. It didn’t help them, as Brett Gardner promptly singled home Ellsbury for another great walk-off win, the second one this series already.
Final score: 5-4 Yankees
Continuing the dental drama: Aaron Judge was a bit cautious during the celebration for Gardner’s walk-off single, even covering his mouth and making sure he knew exactly where Gardner’s helmet was at all times. He also took it upon himself to be the one to douse Gardner during his post-game interview, with YES reporter Meredith Marakovits skillfully dodging the blue Gatorade.
Now the Yankees continue this march back into dominance this season, nicely back in 1st in the AL East, ready for a sweep of the Rays with tomorrow’s game. After tomorrow’s closer, the Yankees faced the visiting Tigers for an early week series to closer out this home stand. They are on quite the winning streak and continuing to do so could secure their place in October baseball this season, a much-needed boost to the franchise and a rather realistic goal for the first time in many years.
Only 102 games in, and there’s still quite a bit of time left. I mean, sure they’ve already started the category for the wild card that explains how many games a team must lose before being eliminated from even the wild card spot in the postseason (the lowest number is 41 right now).
Also, a random trivia bit: today’s starter, Caleb Smith, celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. So a slightly belated Happy Birthday to Caleb!