Game 8: TB vs. NYY — Rookie strong debut start & a 3-inning rally

It was almost a rain delay in the Bronx today. The Rays were forced to cancel their on-field batting practice before the game so that the grounds crew could put a tarp on the field just in time for the heavens to open up and dump quite the shower on Yankee Stadium. Perhaps in part because of the weather (and perpetual overcast skies) and partly because it was a mid-week day game, the stands felt a little empty (and a bit wet in places) at about 70% capacity today, which is still more than the average Rays home game attendance.

Plus, the Yankees decided to start their recent call-up, young pitcher Jordan Montgomery, in his MLB debut, a new role he not only embraced but succeeded quite well. Paired with another recent call-up, catcher Kyle Higashioka, they teamed up to really show an outstanding battery against the Rays in today’s middle game of the homestand opening series. Montogomery threw 89 pitches into the 5th inning, giving up 5 hits, 3 runs (only 2 earned), and 2 walks, and striking out an impressive 7 batters.

In the 1st inning, Montgomery got 2 quick strikeouts before walking a batter and then giving up a 2-run home run into the left field seats to get the Rays on the board. Then he settled in and powered through the next three innings before allowing a lead-off double in the 5th, and after another 2 strikeouts, his day was done. A rather successful debut.

Bryan Mitchell came on in relief, and his first batter gave the crowd some drama. After reaching safely on a fielding error, the runner scored from 2nd, but then the batter tried to make it to 2nd and was thrown out there thanks to the sharp throw by right fielder Judge and Kozman keeping the tag on the runner who came off the bag as part of the play. However, the umpires originally ruled him safe. On a Yankees’ challenge, the call was eventually overturned and the inning was over.

Mitchell continued on and sailed through the 6th inning flawlessly. Clippard’s 7th continued that pattern, adding 2 more strikeouts to today’s total. Tommy Layne had a spot of trouble in the 8th. His lead-off single was out on a fielder’s choice at 2nd, and after a strike out, a passed ball moved the runner to scoring position. He then scored on a nice double to give the Rays just one more run today. In the next inning, Holder allowed 2 runners with just 1 out, so Chapman came on to finish the 9th, shutting down 2 batters in just 9 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Yankees actually struggled a bit against the Rays’ starter, only giving up 2 hits and 3 walks during his tenure on the mound, into the 5th inning. It would be that inning that the Yankees seemed to find their opening, Headley led-off with a single, Judge worked a walk, and Higashioka reached on a messy fielding error to load the bases with no outs. Two outs later, Aaron Hicks worked a walk to score Headley, and that was the end of the Rays’ starter’s day, with the bases loaded.

The new pitcher threw a wild pitch that moved all the runners up, scoring Judge, before walking Holliday to load up the bases again. But a pop-up ended the 5th inning rally. So the Yankees came back in the 6th to do it again. Castro and Headley led-off with consecutive singles, and Aaron Judge’s single scored Castro. After Higashioka bunted into a force out at 2nd, putting runners in the corners, the Rays went back to their bullpen.

Then, pinch-hitter Brett Gardner hit a dribbler back to the pitcher who had a bad throwing error to 1st, though it scored Headley. But in the process, Gardner collided with the 1st baseman. Both also crashed to the ground, and Gardner crawled to 1st to re-tag it. But both were injured and in pain on the ground. Both also left the game. (More on this below.) Pinch-runner Torreyes came on for Gardner.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled home Higashioka, and this put runners on the corners. After another pitching change, Torreyes then scored on Hicks’ ground out. But the Yankees weren’t done yet. Carter’s lead-off single in the 7th helped solidify the lead when Aaron Judge hit a monster 2-run home run into Monument Park. Someone commented that the scary part of that homer was that Judge didn’t even get all of it.

It’s also worth noting that the Yankee pitchers got the Rays to strike out 11 times, while Rays pitchers only had 1 strikeout today. And of the 12 runs scored, only 7 were officially earned, mostly because of the Rays’ sloppy defense in the latter half of the game, though only 3 total errors were recorded (2 for the Rays, 1 for the Yankees).

Final score: 8-4 Yankees.

Roster moves: to sign today’s starter Jordan Montgomery to the active roster, the Yankees needed to move someone on the 40-man (after moving Shreve to AAA yesterday), so they designated pitcher Johnny Barbato for assignment. Montogmery’s parents were, of course, proudly watching in the stands today for their son’s MLB debut.

Injury news: prospect pitcher James Kaprielian was sent to LA for tests due to his elbow soreness. He was given a few options. He can continue to rest and rehab or consider surgery (yes, the Tommy John kind, which would have an 18-month rehab timeline). As rehab hasn’t been successful thus far, the surgery is being strongly considered. To be fair, they aren’t as quick to rush to surgery lately. I think that’s why they are giving him the non-surgical option as well. In other words, surgery isn’t necessary, but definitely recommended. But as it’s his career and his body, he can choose how to deal with the injury and create a healing timetable based on that decision.

Now, Brett Gardner is injured, and while it won’t cause him to be put on the DL, he is considered day-to-day. He sustained a bruised jaw and strained neck due to the collision in the 6th inning (described above). His partner in this tumble (the Rays’ infielder Weeks) also will be day-to-day with neck and shoulder soreness. No concussion, and no immediate concern, but I imagine Gardner will need a few days to ice that jaw and stretch out his neck. And I’m guessing some soft foods at the Homecoming Dinner later tonight. Skip the steak, bring on the cheesecake.

Go Yankees!

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