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Yankees 10, Rays 3: It’s ALIVE!

Believe it or not, the much-maligned Yankees offense had a big day.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees’ offense came into today’s game carrying the most pressure it had all season long. A potential defeat would leave the Rays with the opportunity to tie the Yankees in the loss column with a win tomorrow to sweep, which would be disastrous to say the least.

Luckily, the offense responded with its best performance in a while, smashing in Corey Kluber to make up for its failures against him in the other four matchups between the two this season. Aaron Judge came up to bat twice in the first inning, and by the end of the frame, the Yankees needed only to not screw everything up in order to come out victorious in this one, as they put up a crooked number (six runs) to open it all up.

Often in sports, narratives are almost predetermined — baseball is no stranger to this trend. One can easily guess what will be said about a certain occurrence, and how it will be treated. The franchise icon who returns to his hometown and struggles? Well, maybe the moment was too big for him. The rookie who goes on a tear in October ? He is playing without fear, and maybe not even the proper perspective of the size of that moment.

The actual reasons behind these events often remain a mystery. It’s simply easier to go with the narrative that’s being pushed for various reasons because it fits, it’s neat, and it may be true very well. To wit, a current backend starter had dominated the Yankees to a degree in 2022 that didn’t match his current skill set, nor his overall performance on the season.

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young award winner, and one of the best pitchers to put on the Cleveland uniform, but as of today in 2022 and for awhile now, he’s been far from the talent he was at his prime. The three-time All-Star is by all accounts a backend starter who will eat up innings with moderate success, and a fine one at that.

Kluber came into this Saturday game with 25 extremely successful innings against the Yankees on the campaign. The veteran right-hander tossed a quality start in each of his four outings versus his former team and was coming off probably his best game of the season, when he tossed seven frames of two-hit ball, with no earned runs and no walks just last weekend — all against these very same Yankees back at Tropicana Field.

A successful Kluber outing today would have ensured a continuation of the storyline that he owns the Yankees’ lineup, and despite their best efforts, that they can’t figure him out. A disastrous Kluber start would set the table for a recap emphasizing that the Yankees were due, as looking at his 2022 campaign, Kluber had clearly been pitching beyond his capabilities against his former team. Why or how it happened doesn’t really matter, and it’s tough to know. However, if Kluber’s previous four-start run against the Yankees represented a positive outlier for him, today’s outing went in the polar opposite.

The Yankees became the first team this season to start a game with not one, not three, not five, but seven consecutive hits. The last time this had happened with the Yanks was in September 1990. The team erupted and Kluber failed to escape the first inning.

Amusingly, this rally exclusively involved singles, as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, Oswaldo Cabrera, Miguel Andújar, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa played pepper with the Rays’ defense. Before an out was recorded, it was 4-0, and after Cabrera scored on a fielder’s choice, Judge’s second single of the frame became the knockout blow. It ended up being the shortest outing of Kluber’s terrific career.

This 6-0 start was an uncharacteristic path to runs, even for the successful parts of the Yankees’ 2022 season. To be fair, Donaldson barely missed a home run with a shot off the top of the wall that bounced back towards the field of play, and because both runners held up, it was ultimately only a single.

Donaldson was dead-set on hitting one out though, and managed to do so in his next at-bat, putting the Yankees up 7-0 at the time:

As the cherry on top with a position player on the mound for Tampa, Stanton got back on the board with his first long ball since July 15th, a majestic fly that clanged off the left-field foul pole. Despite the drought, it was his 25th of the season and the 372nd of his career.

On the pitching side of things for New York, Jameson Taillon was in cruise control off to a big early lead. He finished his afternoon with 7.1 strong innings of three-run ball, striking out eight and allowing only a walk and six hits. With the focus on the offense, it was an unsung afternoon for the right-hander, but he did his job and gave Aaron Boone some length as well.

The league leader in home runs hasn’t hit one as of late, but Aaron Judge simply continues to do Aaron Judge things. No. 99 is the first Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1957 to reach base safely at least three times per game, over a seven-game span.

Don’t look now, but Judge is making a run at the triple crown, as he already has home runs and RBI locked up, and his average is at .307 at the end of today’s game, only 11 percentage points behind AL leader Xander Bogaerts, and fourth overall, trailing Luis Arraez (.313) and José Abreu (.308) as well.

The Yankees are back to 4.5 games ahead of the Rays with a magic number of 20. They’ll go for the series victory tomorrow, though because of Tuesday’s rainout messing their rotation up, they’ll have to use Domingo Germán on short rest with the bullpen (and perhaps Clarke Schmidt, who threw 45 pitches on Thursday) backing him up. First pitch will be at 1:35pm ET.

Box Score