Yankees Take First Place In Style

(The Yankees celebrating – Photo by Jason Schott)

The Yankees scored three in the ninth, as Gio Urshela got another game-winning hit, to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Friday night at Yankee Stadium and take first place in the American League East for the first time since Opening Day.

The Yankees entered the ninth inning trailing 4-3, and Tampa Bay had their closer, Jose Alvarado in.

Luke Voit led off for the Yankees, and he hit the first pitch to right field for a home run, sending the crowd into a frenzy as he instantly pulled the Yankees within one.

Gary Sanchez then laced a single to left before Kendrys Morales struck out.

Gleyber Torres was up next, and he had quite a battle with Alvarado, a 10-pitch at-bat that the Yankees shortstop one when he hit a rocket to left field that landed on the track, one hop off the scoreboard, for a double.

The Yankees had Torres at second and Thairo Estrada (who ran for Sanchez) at third, and they intentionally walked Clint Frazier to get to Cameron Maybin, who pinch-hit for Brett Gardner.

The first pitch to Maybin saw was in the dirt and bounced to the backstop to score Estrada and tie it at 3. Maybin then grounded to third, and Daniel Robertson threw home to force out Torres.

Gio Urshela, who has been Mr. Clutch for the Yankees lately starting when he hit a two-run homer to tie a game that the Yankees eventually won against Seattle on May 7, was up next.

Urshela launched one into the right-center field gap that scored Frazier with the winning run and sent the Yankees into first place over Tampa.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Urshela continuing to impress, “Great at-bats all night. Tonight, obviously, a couple of hits the other way and then absolutely scalded that ball. They had him played perfectly, but he hit it so hard to get it over his head, just another, you know, him coming up in a big way like he has miuch of the year so far.”

Boone was asked if Voit’s homer changed the feel of that inning, and he said, “I thought the dynamic was alright anyway. We know we’re up against a tough customer in Alvarado there, but you know, guys expect it, and guys have been so good in the ‘compete’ department that I wasn’t surprised they’d go down fighting. To string together the level of at-bats against that guy right there was really impressive, and obviously, Luke a big shot to get it going.”

Boone said of Torres’ at-bat, “For as good as he’s been swinging, that’s probably his best at-bat of the year. I mean, that’s a grind-it-out, lay off some pitches, spoil some tough pitches, finally get one he can handle and smoked it. Really good at-bat by Gleyber.”

The Yankees are now 27-16, and have overtaken Tampa Bay (26-16), who led the American League East from the start of the season, for first place.

While the Yankees have done this with practically an All-Star team out, the expectation hasn’t changed, as Boone pointed out: “Guys are playing well, I love the way we’re coming in every day and the way we’re competing day in and day out, so I’m happy with that. We’re at a point in the season where it’s so long to go that you don’t even really get that caught up in the standings as much as ‘hey, we want to put our best foot forward every day,’ and they’ve consistently been able to do that. They’ve consistently been able to deal with whatever’s been thrown their way, and it’s a team that comes in expecting to win.”

The Yankees got on the board first in the top of the second inning when Kendrys Morales hit his first home run in pinstripes down the right field line, just inside the foul pole and it landed in the second deck to make it 1-0.

Tampa Bay got that run back in the top of the fourth when Willy Adames hit a home run of his own to left field, just clearing the fence.

Aside from that, Yankees starter CC Sabathia had a nice outing, as he threw six innings, allowing that one run on six hits and two walks, with four strikeouts.

CC worked around hits in every inning, including the sixth, when he allowed a single to Daniel Robertson an then ended his night with two strikeouts of Travis d’Arnaud and Brandon Lowe.

Tampa Bay used Ryan Stanek as their “opener” for the first two innings, and then Jonny Chirinos dominated for 4-2/3 innings, keeping it a tie game into the seventh.

In the top of the seventh, Adam Ottavino retired the first two Rays, then walked Tommy Pham, and that was all for him. Tommy Kahnle was next out of the bullpen, and he gave up a single to Austin Meadows before striking out Avisail Garcia to get out of trouble.

Instead of keeping Kahnle on for the eighth, the Yankees turned to right-hander Chad Green, who had made just one appearance since returning from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. That was on Sunday at Tampa Bay when he pitched the ninth in a 7-1 Yankees win.

Well, Green showed why the Yankees sent him down for a few weeks, as he allowed a one-out double into the right field corner to Robertson.

Then, for some reason, Travis d’Arnaud went after the first pitch and popped it to shortstop Gleyber Torres for the second out.

Even after getting a major break like that, Green then allowed Brandon Lowe to hit a rocket that went over the head of center fielder Aaron Hicks, and that scored Robertson to make it 2-1 Rays.

Kevin Kiermaier then grounded one to Torres, and he beat it out, but Torres’ throw was wild and went into the photographers’ well, allowing Lowe to score and give Tampa a 3-1 lead. Yandy Diaz then grounded to short to end the threat.

Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless ninth, as he retired Tampa Bay in order and notched two strikeouts, keeping it within two for the Yankees to make their comeback, and he earned the win.

 

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