This game really put us through the wringer across the full spectrum of emotions – from the elation of Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka’s bat home runs to the annoyance of unnecessary late-inning delays at the tension of a one-inning drama in the ninth. At the end of the day, all that matters is a Yankees win, and that was the end result.
It was always going to be a tough game against Rays ace Shane McClanahan, a notion confirmed when he burst out of the gate pulling his A-game thing. That, however, meant little to Judge, who lined up a 3-2 dangling curveball on the porch court to scout the Yankees up a 1-0 lead. In a game where the stars were likely to dictate the outcome, the judge’s star shone brightest on Homer No. 25.
Although they struggled to string together multiple baserunners against McClanahan early on, the Yankees made him work, bumping his pitch count to 42 by the end of the second. Unfortunately, Gleyber Torres undid some of that work, attempting to steal the second while McClanahan still had the ball on the mound, TOOTBLAN working his way to a surprise end inning stealing.
On the other side of the ball, Nestor Cortes was distributing, showing no hangover from his worst outing of the year last time out against the Twins. He allowed just one hit in the first five innings — a Yandy Díaz brace in the third — while striking out four.
The first crack appeared in McClanahan’s armor in the fifth, and the Yankees took full advantage. Josh Donaldson reached second without an out on a loose fly ball by backup center fielder Brett Phillips, who replaced Kevin Kiermaier in third. Torres moved Donaldson to third, but Aaron Hicks hit for the second time to bring Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the plate with two outs.
After McClanahan fell 3-0 behind, the Rays intentionally walked IKF to face Higashioka. The light receiver apparently took it personally, as he beat McClanahan from the spot on a 1-0 fastball, sending a bomb 369 feet into the left seats to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
Just when it looked like Cortes was falling into a groove that could carry him into the final innings, a single cerebral fart brought his sixth start to a screeching halt. After giving up a brace to Díaz, he looked away from a throw to the mound, getting his head fucked by the ball. He compounded his mistake by waiting for a teammate to correct his error, allowing Díaz to move into third place.
It appeared Cortes was distracted after the incident, dropping an RBI brace to Manuel Margot followed by a walk to Randy Arozarena. Just like that, his outing was over and the lack of focus probably cost him a chance to finish the inning. Wandy Peralta came in to get the final two outs, as well as a clear seventh, striking out three in the process.
Difficult to know how to evaluate this departure from Cortes. On the one hand, he was dominant for long stretches, feeling with the four-seam and the cutter. On the other hand, seeing his concentration go so fast in a big spot was disturbing. His last line: 5.1 innings, three hits, one run, three walks and four strikeouts on 91 pitches.
Miguel Castro came on as relief from Peralta in the eighth and gave us a prototypical outing from Castro, getting two quick outs before losing control of his throws. He allowed a two-out brace to Margot, then hit Arozarena to put on a pair. This is where things got weird.
Matt Blake came out for a visit to the mound, after which the Rays announced left-hander Ji-Man Choi would hit for Isaac Paredes. This led to Aaron Boone asking Higashioka to stall while Lucas Luetge warmed up in the bullpen. Boone came out to make the pitcher change, but the umpires collectively forgot Rule 5.10(I)(1-4)allowing a second visit to the mound at the same plaque occurrence.
We were then forced to sit and watch the umpires hesitate as they waited for word from the MLB office before they finally authorized the pitch change. Along comes Luetge, who gives up back-to-back soft-contact RBI singles to Choi and Rene Pinto, suddenly cutting the Yankees’ lead to 4-3. Luetge finally asked Phillips to fly away, easily ending the most boring half hour most of us have endured this week.
Clay Holmes came out to close out the ninth amid reports that Aaron Boone would not commit to keeping him in the closest role once Aroldis Chapman returns. He did what he’s done all year, navigating around a Taylor Walls debut single to nail the stoppage and secure the Yankees’ 4-3 win. That’s six straight wins for the Bombers and their 13th straight win at Yankee Stadium — a mark that hadn’t been reached in nearly 50 years.
The Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow night with Luis Severino ready to face »a bit of openness” Jalen Beeks (replacing the now IL’d Drew Rasmussen). The first launch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET, so be sure to join us in the game feed.
The score of the box