Okay, I know that technically Yankee Stadium South should be Steinbrenner Field. And it is, as during Spring Training, it’s basically a miniaturized version of the Bronx landmark, complete with the arches and flags. But during the regular season, it’s Tropicana Field. Part of me feels like it’s a weird hybrid of Yankee Stadium and Steinbrenner Field because many of the same vendors and employees just move across the bay to the small St. Petersburg dome after their March spent at Steinbrenner, and most of the time I’m at the Trop is for a Yankees game (so my bias could be slightly skewed here). But when the Yankees come to town, the seats are dominated by a large contingency of Yankee fans, more than most other visiting stadiums (at least in my experience).
No need for the animated scoreboard to encourage cheering. Yankees fans were on top of things, leading the standard chant of “Let’s Go, Yankees! (clap-clap-clapclapclap)” And standing for 2-strike inning-enders. And wildly cheering when Yankee runs were scored. The smaller crowd of Rays fans (mostly crowded behind the 1st base Rays dugout) couldn’t really compete with the large 3rd base side of the stadium. So for a crowd of just over 13,000 people, it was Yankee strong once again for tonight’s finale against the Rays at the Trop, aka “Yankee Stadium South”.
(To be fair, it’s always been rather “Yankee-heavy”, but even with Jeter’s retirement last year, it wasn’t as loud or “Yankee-strong” as it was this series. I don’t know if it’s because the Yankees are still in the play-off race or if local Yankee fans are just coming out to support their team more this year. Either way, the low attendance at the Trop has to be grateful for Yankees games for at least filling about 50% of their stadium during these series. But that’s another post for another time.)
The Yankees faced the Rays’ best starter (at least in my opinion), a player I have on that list I mentioned before of non-Yankee starters I think are really amazing pitchers. But the Rays’ defense isn’t exactly top-notch (though nowhere near as terrible as their offense this year), so the Yankees were able to poke holes in their game, grab the lead early, and keep it tonight. In the 2nd, Beltran led-off with a walk and then scored on Greg Bird’s double. And in the 6th, with 2 outs and McCann and Bird on base with walks (the Rays’ starter wasn’t as sharp with his control as he should have been), Chase Headley’s single scored McCann for an extra run.
The lady next to me, a long-time Yankees fan (she and her late husband went to ball games and followed the Yankees since the 1960s), was saying at the end of the 8th inning that she wanted an insurance run just in case. Greg Bird answered her request with a lead-off solo home run off the catwalk over right field in the 9th inning.
Luis Severino got the start and the much-needed win. With Toronto basically drenching the Braves tonight about 8 hours north of the game, the Yankees needed to win tonight to keep within reach, and behind a sharp Severino tonight, they did. Severino threw 94 pitches into the 6th inning, giving up 6 hits, 1 walk, and just 1 run, and struck out 7 Rays batters. Severino refused to allow a run until his final inning. With 1 out, a single scored on a big RBI double to get the Rays on the board. (An umpire review on a misread catch by Ellsbury upheld the call, overruling the question as to whether the misread was due to the ball potentially hitting one of the beams in the domed ceiling — part of the mess that is playing at the Trop sometimes.) After his 7th strikeout, Severino’s night was over, leaving to a rather enthusiastic crowd applause for a job well-done.
Justin Wilson completed the 6th inning and through into the 7th, keeping the Rays to that lone run. With 2 outs, he handed the ball over to Dellin Betances for a potential 4-out outing. But leave it to Betances to spike up the drama in this already tight game — he promptly walked 3 consecutive batters to load the bases before striking out the next batter in just 3 pitches. Betances came back for the 8th inning, gave up a single, got the next guy to bunt and pop into a double play (great play started by Headley’s catch of the pop-up and then throw to 1st to get the runner doubling off the base), and then a ground out to end Betances’ night. Drama, drama, drama! (There is no ordinary with him sometimes. Is there?)
Andrew Miller came on in the 9th for his 14-pitch outing — 3 consecutive strikeouts to earn his 34th save of the season. It should be noted that all three batters he faced were pinch-hitters, the Rays’ attempt at getting someone (anyone) on base to do a last-minute rally. But when Miller is at his best, it’s just not going to work. And he was pretty good tonight.
Final score from “Yankee Stadium South”: 3-1 Yankees, Yankees win series 2-1. (In case you were wondering, and I know you weren’t, the Yankees outscored the Rays 10-8 this series.)
Not really part of the Revolving Door (as it’s just a lateral move, really): Ivan Nova was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He’s been struggling since his return from Tommy John surgery with finding the pace and rhythm of being a starter once again, so the move is rather similar to one they made with him a few years ago. He was moved to the bullpen to find his strength at pitching and then came back stronger than ever (and became “SuperNova”). The Yankees need SuperNova again, but if he has to find it in the bullpen first, then so be it.
Sometimes, you need a bit of a change of scenery to remember what made them notice you in the first place. Though sometimes, you find a new home or a new something in the process. When things aren’t working with the status quo, change is a very good thing. It doesn’t have to be drastic or dramatic, but even the slightest change can shake off the rust and get stagnant things moving again. Change can be a very good thing.