The last two weeks couldn’t have gone much better for the Yankees. They had some incredible performances both on the mound and at the plate, only losing once in 12 games. However while they played one first-place team in the Twins, the competition other than that wasn’t exactly the toughest.
In the coming weeks, the Yankees are scheduled to face some tough competition. The next two weeks features three total series against the teams chasing them in the AL East, the Rays and Blue Jays, and another against the AL West leader and old enemy Astros. That stretch began tonight and it mostly went pretty well.
Yankees pitching was on it on Tuesday night, shutting out the Rays. Bouncing back after a very bad start against the Twins, Gerrit Cole gave the Yankees six good, scoreless innings, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out seven. The bullpen followed that up with three more, allowing the Yankees to pick up a 2-0 victory to start their series with Tampa Bay.
All of the run-scoring offense in the game happened on one play, with the Yankees scoring a couple error-assisted runs in the fourth. With one down and Giancarlo Stanton on first after a walk, it seemed like Gleyber Torres was about to make the second out of the inning when he popped one up to right field. Instead, Manuel Margot dropped the fly ball just barely inside fair territory, allowing Torres to reach and Stanton to go to second. That would be especially big when Matt Carpenter struck out in the next at bat. Instead of the inning being over, there was only two outs with Isiah Kiner-Falefa coming to the plate. After falling down 0-2 and then fouling off a couple pitches, Kiner-Falefa dropped a single into left field.
Stanton scored and the throw home by Randy Arozarena was airmailed, allowing Torres to come around too on some smart baserunning.
Cole mostly cruised early on, but he faced a potential game-changing sequence in the sixth. Yandy Díaz started off the frame with a single. In the next at-bat, Harold Ramirez grounded one back to Cole, who attempted to go to second to start a double play. A combination of Cole’s throw being off and Torres fielding the ball when it probably wasn’t his play to make appeared to pull him off the bag, leading to both runners being safe. The Yankees reviewed, and somewhat controversially, the call was overturned and Díaz was called out on a force.
Despite the new lease of life, the Yankees couldn’t quite capitalize, and Margot and Ji-Man Choi both singled to load the bases. However, Cole then induced a ground ball, as the infield turned two, with the throw just beating Arozarena to first.
Cole’s day would be over after the sixth as Wandy Peralta came in to start the seventh. The lefty got two outs (one on a beautiful play by IKF) on either side of a Isaac Paredes before manager Aaron Boone went back to the bullpen, bringing in Michael King. After a 3-1 count and a passed ball to moved the runner to scoring position, King got a fly out to end the inning. He would come back out for the eighth and worked around a walk to throw another scoreless inning.
Clay Holmes was called on for the ninth inning and quickly got two outs and and 0-2 count to the third batter. After Brett Phillips singled to keep the Rays alive, Francisco Mejía hit one towards deep left-center. It required a nice running catch by Aaron Judge, but he tracked it down for the third out, sealing the win.
Other than maybe the offense capitalizing and scoring a couple more runs, there’s not much more you could’ve asked for to begin this tough stretch for the Yankees. They now sit 45-16 as they head into a pitchers’ duel tomorrow night: Nestor Cortes vs. Shane McClanahan. Tune in for the first pitch at 7:05pm ET.