The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night for their fifth win in a row. After the win they gained half a game on the Baltimore Orioles to improve to only two games behind them for the second wild card spot. They also are still four games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East.
Everything is clicking right now as the Yankees are playing well on offense and defense. They have scored five runs or more in four of the last five games and have allowed four runs or less in five of the last six games. Also, since the Yankees traded lockdown relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller before the trade deadline, the team is an outstanding 7-0 in one-run games and 3-0 in extra-inning games.
After the win, the Yankees improved the 41-28 at Yankee Stadium and are now a season-high nine games above .500 (74-65). Tyler Austin was the star of the game as he had two hits and his third career homer won the game for the the Bronx Bombers.
Austin hit the walk-off homer on a 3-2 two-seamer after he was up 3-0 in the count. It was an inside out swing for an opposite field homer to left field. He rewarded Joe Girardi’s faith in him since he could have sent in Mark Teixeira to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied at four.
The walk-off homer was the first by a Yankee rookie since Melky Cabrera had one on July 18, 2006. Austin hit his first homer in his first career at-bat on August 3. He thinks his walk-off was a more significant homer.
“That might top the first game up here,” Austin said. “It was a huge team win for us and a special moment.”
“I like the way Austin is swinging the bat,” Girardi said. “He is in the game. A lot of times it is a lot easier if your are in the game. It’s amazing what these kids have been able to do for us. A couple of hits tonight. It is hard to explain.”
Austin has a .245 average this season (13-53 in 17 games) but he has found a lot of success hitting in the Bronx. He has nine hits in 26 at-bats at Yankee Stadium (.346) with three homers, four runs scored and six RBI. He hit his second homer of the season, a two-run blast, in the team’s big 7-6 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. In the last five games (all at Yankee Stadium), Austin has been in the zone at the plate as he is 7-16 (.438) with two homers, two doubles and five RBI.
The previous two runs that the Yankees scored were on solo homers by Brian McCann, and one of his homers was a 412-foot round tripper into the suite level. He has found his stroke since the end of August and has improved on offense. In the last 10 games the veteran catcher, who has mainly been the DH since the trade deadline, is 11-37 (.297) with three homers, four runs scored and five RBI.
In the first inning, Didi Gregorius hit a single to score Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury scored after an error by Rays starter Alex Cobb.
CC Sabathia was only able to pitch four innings after being taken out of the game after throwing 87 pitches and allowing three runs on three solo homers. Tampa Bay had seven hits against him in seven innings but the positive was that nobody was on base when the Rays hit their three homers. Two of the three solo blasts were by Kevin Kiermaier with one going to the upper deck. He is 20 for 50 in his last 12 games.
“He made some mistakes,” Girardi said about Sabathia. “Hopefully the shorter outing will refresh him and we will get him going for his next start. He didn’t have his best stuff.”
However, the Yankees bullpen bailed out Sabathia even though Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Luis Severino were not available. Jonathan Holder gave the Yankees two solid innings in the fifth and sixth as he allowed one run on two hits and left the game with the score tied at four.
Chasen Shreve, Blake Parker, Kirby Yates and Tommy Layne prevented the Rays from scoring over the final three innings. Everybody on the roster has really stepped up during this stretch and that includes the bullpen. Brian Cashman got Parker and Layne off of waivers and Shreve and Yates have been up and down from Triple-A. Shreve hasn’t allowed an earned run in five of his last six appearances and is pitching with more confidence.
“It is a sign that the moment is not too big for them,” Girardi said in reference to the young players on the team. “You get more faith in them and you understand they can handle the situation.”
The Yankees are a remarkable 52-9 when scoring five or more runs this season. They will look to continue scoring five or more runs during their next three games against the Rays. Sweeping the series will help them gain more ground in the wild card and in the division. They will need help from other teams to make the playoffs, but they are giving themselves a chance with they way they have been playing recently, and it will be possible with all of the games left that they have against teams ahead of them in the standings.
“We have a shot (at the playoffs) and in this game that is what you look forward to,” Girarid said. “I feel better than I did a few weeks ago.”