After losing four in a row and failing to capture back-to-back wins since the six-game winning streak ended on May 23rd, it was important for the Yankees to take two straight against the red-hot, division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. Gio Urshela and Clint Frazier made that happen, driving in a pair of runs apiece in an ugly game, as the Yankees held off the Rays, 4-3.
The Yankees’ offense jumped out to an early lead against Rays starter Shane McClanahan. After DJ LeMahieu grounded out — the beginning of an 0-for-4 night for the slumping leadoff man — fellow slumper Giancarlo Stanton ripped a single 114.2 mph into left field. He was then erased on fielder’s choice, as Aaron Judge beat out the throw to prevent the double play and extend the inning. A day after snapping an 0-for-17 slide, Urshela was prepared to put the weekend’s woes behind him, and he deposited a home run into the right field seats, lifting the Yankees to an early 2-0 lead.
The Yankees then assembled a rare rally in the fourth. Gleyber Torres led off the inning with a double, followed up by a single from Rougned Odor and a Gary Sánchez walk to load the bases. With one out in the inning, Frazier drove a single straight up the middle to drive in Torres and Odor, extending the lead to 4-1 and chasing McClanahan from the game. The Yankees, however, were unable to capitalize further, even after a walk to Stanton loaded the bases again, as Ryan Thompson struck out LeMahieu and induced a groundout by Judge to escape further danger.
The evening had the potential for a rocky performance for starter Jordan Montgomery, who allowed no fewer than nine hard-hit balls according to Statcast and allowed a baserunner in four of the six innings he completed. More than anything, the Yankees needed length out of their starter due to a depleted bullpen, and in that, Montgomery did not disappoint. Although he didn’t quite have his best stuff, he battled through 6.1 innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on five hits, striking out six, and walking two.
The Yankees’ inability to put the game away when they had the chance early almost cost them in the later innings. The Rays nearly took full advantage in the top of the seventh, thanks to two defensive miscues by two Yankees pitchers. A misplayed comebacker off the bat of Joey Wendle and a double by Taylor Walls put runners on first and second with no outs.
After Montgomery struck out the lefty Brett Phillips, the Yankees turned to Jonathan Loaisiga, who immediately made Randy Arozarena look silly to record the second out of the inning:
Ji-Man Choi, pinch-hitting for Yandy Díaz, then rocketed a 106.3-mph liner right back at Loaisiga, who was unable to come up with the ball, allowing Wendle to score and put the tying run just ninety feet away; fortunately, he was able to induce a ground ball to Torres, playing second base due to the shift, to end the inning with the lead.
Chad Green pitched a fairly uneventful eighth inning, but the ninth brought more heart palpitations, as Aroldis Chapman proceeded to walk the first two batters, Taylor Walls and Mike Zunino, to face the top of the Rays’ order. The Yankees’ closer proceeded then to overpower Arozarena — bestowing a golden sombrero on the designated hitter — overcame Choi after a lengthy battle, and, at last, got Austin Meadows to bounce an easy ball back to the pitcher for the final out of the game.
Yankees win! Aroldis Chapman's throw beats the runner to 1st, and the Yanks take it, 4-3.— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 3, 2021
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In what has become a typical event in Yankees games (even wins), the baserunning tonight was absolutely atrocious — by both teams! After walking to lead off the game, Arozarena was almost immediately picked off for the first out. In the top of the fourth, Mike Brosseau took a page from the Yankees’ Tuesday night playbook and was thrown out at third while trying to advance on a groundball to shortstop.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were fairly clean on the basepaths for most of the early part of the game. But then, Urshela recorded the first out of the eighth after failing to advance to third on a ball that away from Rays catcher Francisco Mejía, and Torres brought the inning to a close by being picked off of first. Make that a league-leading 29 outs on the basepaths for the Bombers. Despite the consecutive W’s, there are still clearly fundamentals to iron out.
Montgomery improves to 3-1 with the win, McClanahan is tagged with his first career loss, and Chapman records his 12th save of the season — his first since May 20th! With the victory, the Yankees now sit at 31-25 and are only 3.5 games behind the 35-22 Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees finish their series with the Rays tomorrow afternoon, as Gerrit Cole (6-2, 1.78 ERA) takes on the long-time Major Leaguer, TBD. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 — pending the weather.
For those of you who love fun stats, according to James Smyth, Montgomery had a unique stat line tonight: