One day, you’re going to see a random trivia question about the time when a New York team played in New York (and not against a fellow New York team) and wasn’t the home team. And you’re going to know the answer — the Yankees “visited” the Rays, the temporary hosts of Citi Field.
And I have to be honest, it was really weird to be at Citi Field for a Yankees game when the other team wasn’t the Mets. But some rather familiar vibes lingered around the stadium with the overwhelming majority of the fans being Yankee fans (something Rays fans are rather familiar with the split representation on their home turf). Almost all 15,327 people at CitiField were avid Yankee fans completely thrilled for a few bonus games closer to home.
But it was a rather typical Yankees-Rays game tonight, with CC Sabathia at the helm to start tonight’s opener in this misplaced series. Sabathia threw a pretty great outing once again, throwing 88 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, and a single run, and striking out a solid 6 Rays’ batters. A lead-off walk in the 2nd scored on a 2-out triple to score the Rays’ sole run tonight.
Sabathia got the hook in the 5th with 1 out and after allowing 2 runners on base and the one Rays batter that seems to consistently do well against him (even when he’s having a good day). So it was on to David Robertson for some long-term relief, throwing a season high 36 pitches to get a nice 8 outs and sail the Yankees through the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He also set himself up for the win for finishing the 5th inning for Sabathia.
Dellin Betances had a bit of trouble in the 8th, but certainly got himself out of it all with 2 stellar Betances-esque strikeouts. But it was Aroldis Chapman who pretty much sailed through the 9th inning in just 10 pitches. Yankee pitchers got the Rays to strikeout 12 times.
The Yankees actually only got half the hits the Rays did tonight (just 4 hits), but they also got double the amount of walks (6 total). And the Yankees only needed a single inning to make all the difference off the Rays’ starter, who didn’t make it out of that inning. In the 4th, the Yankees sent 10 batters up to the plate.
Judge led-off with a walk and ended up at 3rd on Sanchez’s deep single. Didi Gregorius hit into a sacrifice fly that scored Judge to initially tie up the game. After a second out, the Yankees just pounced. Matt Holliday profited from a fielding error, ending up at 2nd and scoring Sanchez for the go-ahead run. Then Jacoby Ellsbury got a free base because of (what else?) catcher’s interference (more after the recap).
So with 2 men on base and 2 outs, it would be Todd Frazier’s 24th home run of the season, a 3-run home run into the left field seats to assure the Yankees of a solid lead. After Tyler Austin’s double and Gardner’s walk, the Rays pulled their starter for the bullpen. And the Rays’ bullpen clearly had a better time against the Yankee’s offense, as the Yankees didn’t even come close to scoring after the Rays’ starter left the game.
Final score: 5-1 Yankees
Okay, so Jacoby Ellsbury set a new MLB record for catcher’s interferences. In just 5,310 plate appearances, Ellsbury has reached base due to 30 total interferences. The previous record holder was Pete Rose, who got 29 interferences in 15,890 total plate appearances over his career.
Injury news: so before tonight’s game, the Yankees activated Clint Frazier from his rehab stint and the DL due to a strained oblique. But just before the game, Greg Bird was a last-minute scratch due to “lower back tightness”, and the Yankees went with Tyler Austin in his spot. Fingers crossed for nothing worse that a weird momentary tweak for Bird.
And a big happy birthday to Jacoby Ellsbury! A great group along the 1st base line took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ellsbury after he worked a walk and stole 2nd in the 8th inning, which Ellsbury clearly appreciated.
Finally, let us take a moment to remember the events of this day 16 years ago. Today, we honor the memory of those we lost, the legacy of the heroes and first responders, and the pray for those still grieving their loss or dealing with health-related illnessness from that day. Baseball was one of many bridges used in healing the nation that desperately needed something to talk about, to think about, to focus on that wasn’t about destruction.
Many of today’s Yankees (as well as around the league) were just children 16 years ago, which just further impacts how our world has changed. Again, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are still mourning their lost loved ones as we join you in remembering their story, their journey, their contribution to our world cut short. They are never forgotten thanks in part to you.