This team, man. Jordan Montgomery had his first truly ineffective start since his 2022 debut. The offense looked anemic early on against Shane Baz. And yet, never did the game feel out of reach, and thanks to big nights from Jose Trevino and Aaron Judge, the Yankees were able to climb all the way back to complete their 20th comeback win of the season, securing a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Coming into tonight, Montgomery had allowed two or fewer runs in 11 of his 13 outings this season; in the other two, he allowed only three. He had gone six or more innings in each of his past five starts — a 1.95 ERA stretch. Needless to say, he was probably due for a bit of a clunker, and from the very beginning on Wednesday, it was clear that the lefty wasn’t quite as dominant tonight as he had been in his last few starts.
Aside from an uneventful first inning, Monty labored early and often in this one. Isaac Paredes opened the bottom of the second by continuing where he left off last night, launching a home run into the left-field seats. Francisco Mejía grounded out to second, Josh Lowe singled, and Vidal Bruján sent another souvenir into the left field seats to give the Rays an early 3-0 lead.
Harold Ramírez opened the third with an infield single, reaching base because Matt Carpenter strayed too far from the first-base bag on a grounder between first and second. Ji-Man Choi followed that up with a single, and Randy Arozarena reached on a fielder’s choice, beating out the relay from Isiah Kiner-Falefa to put runners on the corners with one out. Fortunately, Monty was able to do something the Yankees had not done since Monday night — retire Paredes — inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play to keep the Rays off the board in the inning. Limiting the Rays’ damage there ended up making a difference in the long run.
At the time though, it seemed like things were only getting worse for New York. In the home half of the fourth, Mejía clubbed a leadoff double to right field; he was originally called out at second, but the Rays challenged and the call was overturned. He would then advance to third after Lowe flew out to center, and scored when Bruján grounded to short to give the Rays a 4-1 lead. The next three batters then reached base — a Taylor Walls single and two straight walks — to bring the dangerous Choi up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
With Montgomery beginning to lose the strike zone, Trevino and Josh Donaldson opted to take the bat out of Choi’s hands entirely, teaming up to pick Walls off third:
The difficulty of this play cannot be overstated. Donaldson wasn’t exactly close to the bag, so Trevino had to throw to a moving target. Moreover, the third baseman had to slide as the throw was coming in to block the bag and prevent Walls sneaking in under the tag. Had the throw been off line, the ball could easily have gone into left field, and that’s at least one run scoring — possibly two, depending on how the ball might bounce. Instead, the duo pulled it off masterfully, plucking the Yankees out of a potential disaster unscathed.
That play completely changed the direction of Monty’s start, who retired the next six batters in order. Of course, he did give up one hit in that time, but Stanton had his back in right field. The big guy threw Arozarena out at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double:
In a perfect parallel of earlier in the game, Arozarena was called safe at second, but the call was overturned on a challenge.
All in all, Montgomery’s final line of four runs on nine hits, two walks, and two strikeouts isn’t exactly up to his normal standard so far this season. But despite dealing with baserunners all evening, he kept the Yankees within striking distance, and with the way the Yankees have made comeback victories their business this year, that’s all he needed to do.
However, the Yankees’ offense struggled to get anything going off Baz, the Rays’ starter. After DJ LeMahieu opened the game with a single, the rookie retired the next nine batters in order, including five strikeouts in a row. Then everything began to change once Judge came to the plate for his second at-bat against Baz.
Judge’s 26th homer of the season didn’t quite ring as majestically on Statcast as it did on the television, as it traveled “only” 396 feet with a 99.9 mph launch angle, but it counted as a run all the same.
While Anthony Rizzo and Stanton followed that up with groundballs, Donaldson laced a line drive down the third-base line that damaged Yandy Díaz’s glove. Although he was stranded, the pair of hard hits was a sign of things to come for the Yankees.
The fifth inning saw the Yankees begin to truly wear down Baz. After Trevino singled with one out, Joey Gallo, LeMahieu, and Judge grinded out long at-bats, with the first two working walks to load the bases. Baz was removed after a Judge strikeout, and Brooks Raley came in to retire Rizzo, ending the inning. Although the Yankees failed to score despite the golden opportunity, they got themselves into the worn-out Rays bullpen — one that used seven pitchers in yesterday’s bullpen game.
That began to pay dividends immediately. Stanton walked on four pitches against new pitcher Calvin Faucher. The 26-year-old got Donaldson to go down on strikes after jumping ahead 2-0, but Carpenter lined a single to right, putting runners on first and second. It looked like Faucher would escape unscathed, as IKF flew out and Trevino bounced one to short.
But Walls seemingly forgot that while Trevino has more speed than your average catcher, he’s still a catcher. The shortstop rushed the throw, short-hopped it, and Choi was unable to scoop it:
Stanton had been running on contact and scored on the play, bringing the Yankees to within two.
An inning later, Judge decided that his earlier homer was a lot of fun, and worth doing again. And so, he did it again — except this time, quite majestically.
What can I say about this one? Shall I highlight the distance, which was 406 feet? What about the 109-mph exit velocity? Perhaps the fact that he’s now at 27 homers on June 22nd? Or maybe I should inform you that he hit the ball over the catwalk at the Trop? No matter what you want to focus on, the result was the same: the Yankees continued to chip away, bringing the score to 4-3.
Then came the eighth inning, and the capper on this memorable rally. Ralph Garza Jr. came on to pitch for the Rays, their sixth reliever of the night. He walked Kiner-Falefa on five pitches to open the frame. Trevino then battled to get to a 3-2 count, and with IKF running on the play, the catcher unloaded:
The Legend of Jose Trevino continues as the Yankees took a 5-4 lead. And that’s where the game would stay, thanks to three shutout innings from Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, and Clay Holmes — the latter of whom earned his 12th save of the season in a perfect bounce-back from a rare off-night on Monday.
With that win, the Yankees improve to 51-18 and push the Rays to 14 games back in the AL East.
Things don’t get any easier for the Yankees, however, as they come back to the Bronx for a big four-game set against the AL West-leading Houston Astros. Jameson Taillon gets the ball for the Yankees in the first game, going up against Houston southpaw Framber Valdez in what should be an exciting duel between two top-of-the-rotation pitchers and two elite offenses. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET.