It was hard to think of a centering character for this recap. Gio Urshela had his best game of the young season. Gary Sánchez reached base three times. The Yankee bullpen was absolutely dominant, and Albert Abreu capped it off with a dominant 10th. There were lots of strong choices all around, but Rougned Odor gets the honor. The newest Yankee began his tenure in the Bronx with a weak, first pitch popout. He finished the game driving in the winning run in the 10th inning, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead over the Rays en route to an 8-4 victory.
The extra frame started with Aaron Judge on second, and Aaron Hicks reached after a replay review determined he did in fact get hit by a pitch (it grazed his pant leg). Mike Tauchman’s sac bunt put runners on second and third, and weak contact from Gleyber Torres cut down Judge at the plate. Over to you, Mr. Odor:
Is it the prettiest hit you’ll ever see? Probably not, but it was more than enough to do the job. The Yankees poured it on after that, with Sánchez and Gio brought home three more to cap a pretty great half inning — with some help from outfielder Manny Margot.
A few hours prior, Jordan Montgomery started the game with a four-pitch walk, an early indicator that unlike against Baltimore, he didn’t have much command at all throughout this start. He engineered a double play before hitting his first of two batters on the day, and while the first inning didn’t see a run come across, Monty’s early location problems manifested with two hits off his changeup in the second: a single from Mike Brosseau and a homer off Mike Zunino’s bat to put the Yankees up 2-0.
After the Zunino homer, Gio Urshela showed off a side of him that I didn’t know existed:
I didn’t know that Gio could go 450+ to dead center, but now that he has done it, I would like him to continue to do so. That blast tied the game, and the Yankees put the next three men on base before Brett Gardner scampered home on a double play with the bases loaded. That made it 3-2 Yankees after two and a half.
Unfortunately, Montgomery struggled with location all day. He frequently started plate appearances with pitches that weren’t close to the zone, and after the Yankees took the lead, he left this cutter out over the plate to Randy Arozarena, who promptly put the Rays back on top:
Randy Arozarena is a very good hitter. You cannot be giving him that much help. The home run that Montgomery allowed to Zunino in the second came on a 3-2 changeup that crept up to the thigh, instead of being down below the zone. I think Monty’s a fine pitcher, but his location was terrible early today and it cost the club.
Montgomery did settle down as the game wore on, pitching clean fourth and fifth innings. A leadoff walk to Mike Brosseau in the sixth ended the lefty’s day, with a final line of 5+ IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 HBP, while throwing 82 pitches and only 58.5 percent strike rate. Chad Green entered in relief and finished the inning clean, keeping the deficit to one.
The next chance for the offense came in the seventh, with the score still 4-3. The Yankees finally got a bit of luck with Sánchez reaching on a ... questionable HBP call, and the club loaded the bases with one out for DJ LeMahieu. The team’s best contact hitter promptly bounced into a double play on a pitch outside the strike zone, and the threat was quelled. Finally, the team cashed in on another big chance, after walks to Judge and Giancarlo Stanton gave Torres a shot at his first RBI of the season. A hard line drive later, and the game was 4-4.
The bullpen kept up its end of the bargain, with Green and Darren O’Day combining to work the eighth. Then, the ninth happened. Urshela continued his monster game with a great hustle double, and a walk from Gardner set up LeMahieu with another chance to be a hero. Instead, he bounced a ball to third for a forceout at the bag, but the throw to first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo was bobbled. LeMahieu moved to second and Gardner to third in what was effectively a very ugly sac bunt.
Diego Castillo then bounced a slider, and Gardner got just a bit too aggressive at third. After a quick throw down to the bag, Kevin Padlo chased Gardy about halfway to the plate, tagged him, and the Yankees found yet another way to blow yet another great scoring chance. The game stayed tied, and after a strong inning of work from Aroldis Chapman, on came extras, where Odor led the charge at last.
This game felt like a pressure valve releasing, like a lot of the pent-up frustrations we’ve all had this weekend were taken out in the second half of the matchup. Not only did the Yankees finally win a game in extra innings — they did so at the Trop, where they’d won just once in 10 previous tries since the 2019 All-Star break.
Hopefully, the good at-bats and a couple of the lucky bounces stay the Yankees’ way tomorrow, as they take on the Blue Jays half an hour away in Dunedin. Gerrit Cole gets the ball, with the game scheduled for a 7:07pm start. I imagine we’ll see Rougned Odor getting the chance to keep building his legend as well.