Game 158: NYY vs. TB — So close and yet…

I’m guessing that tonight’s game will be one that the Yankees and the Rays won’t want to remember any time soon. Neither team played exceptionally well, and neither team really came out looking like a winning season kind of team that they both are. It was just one of those games that you’re glad is over, learn from the mistakes, turn the page, and start fresh tomorrow.

The Yankees got on the board first, facing the Rays’ brief starter in their bullpen-pieced pitching staff again. McCutchen led-off the game with a single and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s 2-out walk. Neil Walker then hit a big 3-run home run right up the middle to get the Yankees started with a solid lead.

It didn’t last long. Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and wasn’t exactly having the kind of memorable night. He threw 80 pitches in 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single before getting the first out of the inning, a strikeout.

But then the next batter hit a baby grounder back to the mound, but a poor throw by Tanaka allowed him to be safe and the lead runner to score. He hit the next batter to load up the bases before giving up another single to score the tying run but keep the bases loaded. He then managed to get 2 consecutive strikeouts to leave the Rays stranded there.

A 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 3rd gave the Rays the slim lead, and the teams battled most of the game to maintain the close game. Holder, Green, and Chapman each took an inning to keep things tight through the 7th inning. But David Robertson had some issues in the bottom of the 8th.

A lead-off walk scored on an RBI double to add to the Rays lead. A passed ball then moved the runner to 3rd. Robertson finally got an out, a strikeout, to hold that runner just 90 feet from home. But the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice and still ended up safe at 1st as the runner also scored. Late to the defense and everyone’s safe.

Another single ended with runners on the corners. Then the next batter hit a bunt single that scored the runner from 3rd. Originally, it was called out at 2nd (which means the run still scored, by the way), but the Rays rightly challenged and the call was overturned. Again, everyone’s safe.

That Rays’ lead now expanding further. It was time to go back to the bullpen. Justus Sheffield came on to help stem the tide. He immediately got a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to put runners at the corners. But then, Sheffield tried to pick-off the runner at 1st and bounced the ball to Voit, allowing both runners to move up and thus another runner to score. After a grounder ended the inning, the Yankees were back in the batter’s box for one last shot.

They took it and loaded up the bases. Sanchez led-off the 9th with a walk, Gardner hit a 1-out single, and McCutchen singled. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, keeping the bases loaded. Luke Voit hit a really long single that scored both Gardner and McCutchen and moved Judge to 3rd. Judge kept things rolling by scoring on Giancarlo Stanton’s single to put the Yankees within just 1 run again. Voit advanced to 3rd on a flyout, but Andujar then popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Rays

Injury update: There’s good news in Yankee Universe. I promise. Didi Gregorius has been cleared to resume baseball activities. That means he can start working out again, throwing a ball, swinging a bat, working on fielding, and get back into the game sooner than later.

And there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Wild Card game. The Yankees need 2 more wins (of the 4 games left to play) to secure home field advantage. But does that actually matter in a one-off game like the Wild Card? According to statistics, no. In 12 Wild Card games over the last 6 years, 5 home teams have won and 7 visiting teams won. And the Yankees got home field both times they were Wild Card and are split in their success — lost to the Astros in 2015, won over the Twins in 2017.

In other words, you can’t predict baseball, and a lot of the superstitions, suppositions, and “traditions” are bunk.

Go Yankees!

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