A long weekend began a day early with the Rays coming into town, and the Yankee looking to gain some ground on that Wild Card race just out of their reach, for now. And tonight’s game was a bit of a back-and-forth event with some rather impressive show of power. Honestly, on both sides.
CC Sabathia got the start, and while definitely not his worst outing, he still got roughed up a bit in his abbreviated start. Sabathia threw 87 pitches into the 5th inning, gave up 7 hits, no walks, and 3 runs, striking out just 4 Tampa Bay batters. All of those allowed runs were solo home runs, by the way — a 1-out solo shot in the 1st, a lead-off homer in the 2nd, and a lead-off one in the 3rd (by the same guy who started the Rays’ runs in the 1st inning).
In the mean time, the Yankees certainly let into the Rays’ starter. In the 1st, Gardner and Ellsbury started things off with singled and ended up in scoring position on Sanchez’s ground out. Didi Gregorius’ single scored Gardner, moving Ellsbury to 3rd where he was able to score on a really messy pick-off error to give the Yankees the lead. The pick-off hit Gregorius on the back and rolled away; Gregorius was a little bruised up, but stayed in the game.
After the Rays tied things up in the 2nd, Brian McCann led-off the 2nd with a monster solo shot to the right field suite level (that’s the level above the 2nd deck) to give the Yankees back their edge. McCann came back in the 4th with a beautiful 1-out solo home run to regain the Yankee lead.
Jonathan Holder came on to get out of Sabathia’s jam in the 5th and was sailing along just fine until a 2-out solo home run in the 6th tied up the game again. But Holder got through that inning without further damage. Shreve started the 7th inning for an out before handing things off to Blake Parker who pitched through the 7th and 8th innings, keeping the Rays from retaking the lead. Yates threw a quick 8 pitches to start the 9th inning before Tommy Layne’s 5-pitch strikeout closed things out and handed the game back to the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th.
McCann led-off the inning, but he wasn’t going to make it a 3-homer night, instead flying out on the 2nd pitch. Headley too got out on the 2nd pitch of the at-bat. The Rays went to their bullpen again to face the red-hot Tyler Austin. Both guys put up their best. The reliever throwing 6 pitches to get up to a full count. Austin waiting on what he called “the pitch to hit”. And there it was — a 92 mph fast ball. Swing, hit, going deep, gone. Tyler Austin — walk-off home run.
Final score: 5-4 Yankees.
Walk-off home runs are some of the best ways to end games. And it’s their 5th win in a row. This certainly helps the Yankees in the Wild Card race putting them within just a few games.
And tonight’s game wasn’t without some weird quirky events. Like when Holder’s belt broke in the 6th and needed to be replaced right there on the mound. A reporter tweeted an interesting observation of the moment:
How’s this for a weird summer job: Some kid was just assigned the duty of bringing Jonathan Holder a new belt in the middle of an inning.
— Lohud Yankees Blog (@LoHudYankees) September 9, 2016
Another weird event was the reversal of a balk call. So, here’s what happened: Holder (again) was communicating with his catcher McCann in the 5th inning, but they couldn’t get on the same page. And in the middle of their signaling each other, the home plate umpire called a “balk”, which would have walked in the runner from 3rd. That’s not a good call for the Yankees.
But McCann jumped up and tried to explain to the umpire that it wasn’t a balk, but how Holder prepares and pitches and communicates to . Holder is still relatively new to the league, so his style isn’t as known by the powers that be. Upon request from Girardi, the umpires huddled, and everyone thought there’s no way they were going to reverse the call. Those calls are never reversed. But then this one was.
Okay. Call it favor. Call it justice. Call it whatever you want. But it worked for the Yankees.