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Yankees 3, Rays 2: Bader bail-out

The center fielder, fresh off the IL, came in to pinch-hit in the seventh and notched two big hits.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
Harrison Bader after his three-run homer yesterday.
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Despite Tampa Bays’ home run prowess, and Domingo Germán’s propensity to yield dingers, this one turned into a bit of a pitching duel. And what started out looking like another tale of the Yankees’ offense struggling turned into an uplifting come-from-behind win.

The Rays’ only run-scoring burst came when Yandy Díaz and Wander Franco got things started in the bottom of the first with a pair of 96-mph singles. Germán almost got out of that jam, getting Randy Arozarena to pop out after an eight-pitch battle and then setting Brandon Lowe down on strikes. But the next batter, Manuel Margot, drilled a 107.9-mph grounder past DJ Lemahieu at third after Kyle Higashioka seemingly forgot how many strikes there were on the previous pitch. Later in the dugout, Anthony Rizzo admonished the Yankees’ backstop for his mental lapse:

Whether things would have turned out differently had the catcher been more aware of the count remains to be seen; regardless, the end result was a two-run double and an early 2-0 lead for the Rays.

Another unfortunate miscue — by Jake Bauers, his second in as many days — nearly cost Germán in the bottom of the fifth. Bauers, Gleyber Torres, and Anthony Rizzo converged on a popup to short right off the bat of Christian Bethancourt, with an expected batting average of .020, and it bounced off the forearm of the sliding right fielder. Scored a double, that was the first “hit” that Germán allowed since the first inning. To his credit, Bauers did make a potentially run-saving throw in the bottom of the sixth, catching Manuel Margot when he tried to go first-to-third on a single:

But back in the fifth, it looked like the right fielder may have caused some trouble. After the double, Germán walked Yandy Díaz on five pitches before getting what looked to be a tailor-made double-play grounder to short until Anthony Volpe flipped it to Torres and the second baseman fumbled the transfer. This time, however, Higashioka redeemed himself with the glove, throwing out Wander Franco on a stolen base attempt after the Rays’ shortstop reached on the fielder’s choice.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa then ran down a Randy Arozarena fly to end the threat:

That would mark the end of the day for Germán, who ultimately allowed two runs on four hits and two walks against five strikeouts in five innings. He threw his curveball 32 times, more than any other pitch, and it generated seven whiffs — a 21.9 percent rate. Prior to today, his 21.5 percent swinging-strike rate on the pitch tied for eighth (with Zac Gallen’s deuce) among all curveballs thrown at least 50 times this year.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the win, as Drew Rasmussen went blow-for-blow with him. He struck out six, yielding just two hits and two walks, in 5.2 innings. The Yankees managed just three hard-hit (95+ mph exit velocity) balls against him when they could get the bat off their shoulders; Rasmussen caught them looking at 19 strikes. All told, the Yankees watched 30 strikes go by, tied for their fourth-highest total on the season.

For the most part, it was a long day for the Yankees’ offense, filled with empty threats including one that came in the top of the seventh when they managed to get men on first and second with no one out. But in the top of the eighth, they finally made good on one. Volpe grounded out to start the inning, but then the Yankees peppered the right side of the field with three straight hits, most notably a scorching 100.8-mph line-drive double off the bat of DJ LeMahieu:

Willie Calhoun popped out next. But then Harrison Bader — who pinch-hit for Jake Bauers in the seventh — got his second hit in as many at-bats, this time driving two home:

With the Yankees in the lead, they turned to Clay Holmes, who despite his recent struggles with control tossed a scoreless eighth. Ian Hamilton, a dark horse in the mix for ninth-inning duties, closed the door for his first career save.

The Bombers will look to take the series against the Rays in St. Pete tomorrow with ace Gerrit Cole on the bump at 1:40 pm EDT. He’ll likely face off against an opener and a cadre of Rays' bullpen arms in what should be a winnable matchup.