The Yankees climbed over the .500 mark for the first time in 2017 on Thursday night. All it took was a sweep of Tampa Bay to do it. This game had great pitching and a pair of big home runs by an outfielder named Aaron. That’s a recipe for success around these parts, as the Yankees topped the Rays by a score of 3 - 2.
This one’s going down as the Aaron Hicks game, isn’t it? The Yankees got on the board in the bottom of the first inning courtesy of a Hicks home run. He launched a solo shot to put the Yankees ahead 1 - 0. The pitch from Matt Andriese was up in the zone and Hicks turned on it. It was a no-doubter.
That’s the only damage the team would do against Andriese, however. He got caught in a bases loaded jam in the third inning, but escaped by striking out Starlin Castro on a ball down in the zone. That was the best chance to capitalize but the Yankees came up empty. All told, Andriese pitched six innings of one-run ball. He seemed like he was on the ropes all night, but he somehow managed to hang on.
In the seventh inning and trailing 2 - 1, the Yankees bats seemed to have stalled out. The lineup needed a kickstart and who better to provide that than Hicks? With two outs and Jacoby Ellsbury on first, Hicks took Xavier Cedeno deep for his second home run of the game.
This was another one that sounded good right off the bat. It gave the Yankees a 3 - 2 lead. How about that? Have yourself a game Hicks.
While Hicks stole the show on offense, Luis Severino took the start and made a statement. He came into the game needing to build on his previous outing. He did just that by pitching seven innings of two-run baseball. He also registered a career high 11 strikeouts. This was Severino at his best, confident and in control.
The Rays picked up their first run on a string of bloop hits. Logan Morrison drew a one-out walk to get things started. Severino struck out Daniel Robertson before losing an eight pitch at bat to Mallex Smith, who picked up a soft infield single. Morrison scored on a Jesus Sucre single up-the-middle. The inning ended after Smith got caught in a rundown. Severino didn’t make many bad pitches and nothing was particularly well struck. Just a few well placed balls that combined to drive home a run.
Smith exited the game shortly after that play. According to the Rays, he left with right hamstring tightness. Peter Bourjos took over in left field and made his presence felt in his first at-bat. In the top of the fifth inning he hit a one-out solo home run to give the Rays a 2 - 1 lead. Severino left one up in the zone that Bourjos drove to left field. Severino made a mistake and Bourjos made him pay.
Severino then retired eight of the next nine batters to finish his night. His fastball played up, his slider broke with a nasty bite, and he effectively mixed in his changeup.
In game pitch classifications are a bit wonky. Did Severino actually throw 27 changeups? Probably not, but it was evident that he went to the pitch frequently. I wanted to see that heading into the start, and he delivered in a big way. This was an impressive start by Severino. I’m looking forward to his next one.
The Yankees bullpen closed out the game, but not before making things interesting. Dellin Betances escaped a jam with two runners on and nobody out. After back-to-back strike outs of Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria, Betances tagged out Brad Miller on running down the first base line. Let’s not do that again, okay, Dellin? Aroldis Chapman worked around a one-out single by Morrison in the ninth inning en route to his second save of the season and the Yankees fourth win in a row.
The Cardinals come to town tomorrow for a three-game interleague series in the Bronx. Masahiro Tanaka will face off against Michael Wacha. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM. You can catch the game on YES or the MLB Network.