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Yankees 3, Rays 1: Pitching, long ball lead the way

The Yankees got a great start from Jordan Montgomery and homers from Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez to lead them to their third straight win.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees got stellar pitching and a couple of long balls tonight to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in St. Petersburg. The Bombers lived up to their name by launching a couple homers as part of their cause, and the pitching took care of the rest.

Aaron Judge started the scoring with two out and no runners on in the top of the first. Facing Rays rookie starter Luis Patiño, the big right fielder walloped a 106.4-mph clothesline over the center-field wall, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

Patiño settled down somewhat by getting five batters in a row until he gave up a single to DJ LeMahieu with one out in the third inning. Tampa Bay then gifted the Yankees a run when Patiño issued a walk to Giancarlo Stanton, which was followed by two passed balls in a row by catcher Mike Zunino, one on a pitch right down the middle. The second allowed LeMahieu to score, putting the Yankees in front by a 2-0 margin.

It didn’t take long for Zunino to make up for his miscues, as he led off the bottom of the third inning by hitting a two-iron to deep left-center that likely would have cleared the literal Tampa Bay and landed somewhere in Bradenton if the game was held outdoors. When it stopped its flight by hitting a structure in left-center field 472 feet away from home plate, the Yankee lead was cut to one run.

Despite groundouts from Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge struck at 113.5 and 116.1 mph respectively in the top of the sixth inning, and a threatening fly ball to the right-field wall from Luke Voit leading off the seventh, Rays reliever Josh Fleming held the Yankees quiet through 2.2 innings in relief. Gary Sánchez cut that run of success short by taking Fleming over the right-field wall with two outs in the top of the seventh, extending the Yankees’ lead to 3-1.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone called upon Jonathan Loaisiga to start the bottom of the seventh inning in relief of Jordan Montgomery. The lefty starter departed the game having pitched his best game of 2021, throwing 85 pitches over 6 innings, striking out 9 while allowing only 3 baserunners.

Loaisiga picked up where Montgomery left off getting two quick outs, but then decided things weren’t interesting enough. A walk to pinch-hitter Brandon Lowe brought Zunino – he of the big fly – back to the plate as the tying run. After a wild pitch on an apparent mix-up between Loaisiga and Sánchez that allowed Lowe to advance, Loaisiga ended the threat by striking Zunino out to escape the seventh unscathed.

Stanton and Judge continued their show leading off the eighth inning with a double and single respectively, giving the Yankees first and third with nobody out. Neither Gio Urshela nor Luke Voit were able to get the ball off the ground in the subsequent at-bats, however. Urshela grounded into a fielder’s choice which cut Stanton down at home, and Voit bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

Aroldis Chapman came on in the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees, and immediately things got tense. After an error by shortstop Gleyber Torres on a grounder from Austin Meadows, Yandy Díaz came to the plate as the tying run. A wild pitch had Meadows heading for second base ...

... only to be cut down by a laser beam from behind the plate for the first out. It was an incredible throw-and-tag combo by Sánchez and Tyler Wade.

After a walk to Díaz, time was called to allow Boone and Yankee trainer Steve Donohue to check on Chapman, which luckily turned out to be a false alarm — it was ultimately just an issue with his fingernail. Pinch-hitter Kevan Smith lined out, and then Chapman struck out Brandon Lowe to end the game.

Even though he wasn’t as dominating as usual, Chapman got the save, as he and Loaisiga combined for three shutout innings in relief, closing the door on a 3-1 win. The win has the Yankees riding high, as it’s their third in a row.

After the game, Boone told reporters that first-base coach Reggie Willits had joined Phil Nevin and a member of the support staff among those testing positive for COVID-19. As of now, they are still planning on playing tomorrow evening. Assuming disaster doesn’t strike, the Yankees will send ace Gerrit Cole to the mound at 7:10pm in search of a fourth straight win.

Box Score