Though the Yankees are in the midst of a generally successful 2019 season in spite of a rash of injuries, something didn’t seem quite right about sitting in second place in the division behind the Tampa Bay Rays. In the teams’ first matchup of the season, the Yankees set the record straight and cut the division gap down to just half a game with a 4-3 win.
The Yankees got off to a fast start against Rays hurler Tyler Glasnow. After DJ LeMahieu reached on an error, Luke Voit walked, and Gary Sanchez singled. The Yankees had the bases loaded with no men out. Although Glasnow struck out Clint Frazier, two runs scored during Gleyber Torres’s at-bat. First, a wild pitch allowed LeMahieu to score. Then, Torres punched a single into right field to make it 2-0 Yankees before Domingo German even threw a pitch.
The Rays almost got a run right back in the home half of the first inning after a leadoff double from Austin Meadows. German buckled down though and stranded Meadows at third. Although Meadows almost scored on an incorrect balk call, German struck out Yandy Diaz and kept the score 2-0.
Eventually, things settled down after the lively start. Glasnow retired eight straight Yankees and German struck out five Rays over four innings. The pitchers were dealing; the teams had just four combined hits through the first four innings.
Cameron Maybin tried to change that by lacing a leadoff double in the top of the fifth, but Glasnow responded by striking out Gardner, LeMahieu and Voit in order. A hit or two productive outs could have scored a run, but no Yankee could square up Glasnow.
Willy Adames followed suit in the bottom of the fifth with his own laser leadoff double. This time the Rays finished the job. Meadows had been seeing German’s pitches well all night, and he crushed a two-run home run into right field to tie the game. After the Yankees’ failure with runners in scoring position, Meadows’ home run felt like a shift in momentum.
Capitalizing on that feeling, Ji-Man Choi came up two batters later and hit an absolute bomb to dead center field to give the Rays the 3-2 lead. German had allowed only two home runs all year long, but that figure doubled after tonight’s start.
The Yankees snagged the lead right back in the sixth, though. Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier cranked back to back singles, and once again the Yankees were in good position to score. Glasnow struck out yet another Yankee though, his ninth of the night, and it looked like it would be another one of those innings.
Then, Glasnow left with forearm tightness, prompting Emilio Pagan’s entry into the game. Miguel Andujar singled, loading the bases for Gio Urshela. Of course, Urshela came through, ripping a two-run single into left field and giving the Yankees the 4-3 lead. As odd as it seems to say, there’s no one the Yankees would have rather had up in that spot, and Urshela delivered in a big way.
Tommy Kahnle set down the side in the bottom half, but things got interesting for Adam Ottavino in the seventh. Two walks and a bunt single loaded the bases with no outs for Tommy Pham, but Ottavino struck him out after an eight-pitch at-bat.
Noted Yankees killer Ji-Man Choi strode to the plate next, and for Ottavino, it was better to be lucky than good. Choi hit a ball that bounced off of Ottavino, but right to LeMahieu, who turned a 4-4-3 double play to end the inning. It took Ottavino 21 pitches to get his first out of the inning, but just two more to get out of it miraculously unscathed.
Zack Britton handled things in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman closed the door in the ninth, and the Yankees earned their sixth win in their last eight games. It sure wasn’t a pretty win, but hey, they can’t all be masterpieces.
The Yankees will look to keep things rolling and take back the division lead with a win tomorrow. CC Sabathia will go for the Yankees, while the Rays’ starter is TBD and likely to be an opener.