It never fails to make new Yankee players smile, the first time they play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, hearing the kind of roar and cheers that they get used to hearing at Yankee Stadium. You hear it at Angels Stadium in Anaheim too. So it makes sense to dub that “Yankee Stadium West”, and “The Trop” easily becomes “Yankees Stadium South”, overriding any allusions to Steinbrenner Field for the regular season.
Anyway, for the 27,252 area fans that crowded the small stadium (its capacity just a little over 30,000), at least half of them were Yankees’ fans, though Twitter estimates put them closer to 27,000, which can be the case in many previous seasons. And that certainly had an effect on the overall game, perhaps even helping the Yankees stem the Rays’ strong showing tonight.
CC Sabathia was far from clean in tonight’s opener against the Rays, but somehow got out of most of the jams along the way. He threw 92 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 9 hits, a walk, and 2 runs (1 earned), and striking out just 4 batters. Despite all those base runners, Sabathia didn’t allow any runs until the 4th inning.
With 1 out, he gave up a double and hit the next batter to get 2 more base runners. Then the next batter singled and the Yankees’ defense kicked in to try to get an out somewhere. They ended up trying the one at 2nd, and initially called out, the Rays challenged and it was quickly overturned. Meanwhile, a run scored and 2 runners were in scoring position. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice that got the out at home, before a simple grounder ended their rally.
Then, in the 5th, the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error by Sabathia’s bad defensive throw to Bird. Another single moved that runner to 3rd before he scored on a long sacrifice fly. A double play ended that threat.
With 1 out and a runner on base with a single in the 6th, Adam Warren came in and managed to load up the bases before getting out of the jam to the delight of the crowd on the 3rd base side of the stadium. Luis Cessa got his shot to test his return from rehab, keeping the Rays to those 2 runs during his 2 innings, despite allowing a couple of base runners himself.
Meanwhile, the Yankees had their moments once again, collecting 6 walks and 5 hits overall, but there was very few that made a difference in the game. In fact, the Rays’ starter only made it through the 1st inning, but his first reliever was actually really strong throwing into the 5th inning. Then they pieced together their bullpen to maintain their home field advantage.
In the 7th, with 1 out, Torres walked and Gardner singled to put runners on the corners. Aaron Judge singled home Torres easily, and a ground out put runners in scoring position. But then sensing their lead might be in trouble, the Rays changed pitchers again and it worked. The Rays stayed strong and that final out in the 9th was a huge letdown for the faithful fans hoping for a big come back they’ve been used to this season.
Final score: 2-1 Rays