- Mike Whiteman
About Yesterday: Yankees 9, Rays 8
By Mike Whiteman 5/14/2023
*** Born on this day in 1899 was Earle Combs. Batting in front of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig was very beneficial for one’s career. The table setter for the great Yankee teams of the 1920s was voted to the Hall of Fame in 1970. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/combsea01.shtml https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/Earle-Combs/ Twenty-seven years ago, Dwight Gooden no-hit the Seattle Mariners. Gooden’s 1996 stats aren’t all that impressive (11-7, 5.01), but he was a crucial part of that World Series champion club, stepping up in a big way after David Cone went down early in the season with an aneurysm. We all know that Cone came back as Doc was running out of gas and helped lead the Yanks to the epic Series win. https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA199605140.shtml
Quick Stats: The Yankees are 23-18 on the season, and are seven games behind the Rays in the American League East. The are in fourth place in the division. The Yankees record when I write the commentary the next morning is 5-0. Starting immediately, I will be reporting on all Yankee games for SSTN. (Editor's note - If this continues, we're going to give you the site.)
Big Story: Yesterday the Yankees ran into one of the best pitchers in the game in Tampa lefthander Shane McClanahan, who was 7-0, 1.76 coming into the contest. The Rays’ ace was matching up against Nestor Cortes, who had struggled to a 3-2, 4.74 ERA. Still, an intriguing matchup of 2022 All-Star lefties. At least it was for a while.
After a relatively calm four innings, the Rays broke it open in the fifth and led 6-0; the big blow a Yandy Diaz grand slam. The Yankees came right back and put four runs on the board in the bottom of the frame when Kyle Higashioka and Aaron Judge smacked two-run homers. After Jimmy Cordero held the Rays scoreless in the sixth, Judge ripped another home run, and Yankees dropped a five spot onto the scoreboard in the bottom half. They suddenly led 9-6.
You just knew this was going to be “one of those games,” and the Rays kept coming, scoring two in the seventh. After Clay Holmes spun a scoreless eighth, Wandy Peralta came on in the ninth and saved his second game in a row. He earned the save, finally retiring Brandon Lowe for the last out, at the end of a grueling a ten-pitch at bat.
Yankees 9, Rays 8. Player of the Game: The Yankees need Aaron Judge to play like an all-star in order to succeed, and he did today. Notable Performances: Credit to Cordero, who stopped the bleeding in the fifth, and held the Rays scoreless in the sixth.…Holmes allowed Randy Arozarena’s broken-bat two-run single in the seventh which brought the Rays within a run, but held firm in the eighth to pass the game to Wandy.…Anthony Volpe manufactured a run on his own in the sixth when he bunted for a single, stole second and third bases, then scored on a wild pitch by Rays hurler Ryan Thompson. He has thirteen thefts on the season.…Holmes’ outing was his fifth straight scoreless appearance....Oswaldo Cabrera had a two-run single in the sixth inning.
Better to Forget: Of concern is Nestor Cortes, who hasn’t been either nasty, or nifty for that matter (I’m sorry for making the easy joke). This time last year, the Yankee lefthander had a 2-1 record and a sparkling 1.35 ERA. When the Yanks wrote up their 2023 plans, it did not include a 5.53 ERA from their star lefty. Luis Severino is scheduled to make a rehab start in Somerset 5/16, and should be back in the Bronx relatively soon. He will be a welcome addition to a stressed rotation.
They Said It: "These guys are ready to roll, they are focused, and they are hungry and that’s how they are playing.” – Aaron Boone on his team.
My take: Whew! These past two Rays-Yankees games have a feeling like some of the Yankee-Red Sox games of the 1990s/2000s. Volatile, draining games that go to the very end. In both games the Yanks showed grit and resolve against adversity. Battling back from a six-run deficit against a stud starter is a big deal. There’s a lot of discussion about Volpe’s place in the lineup, and I’m one who would prefer to see him down in the batting order. In fact, yesterday’s order was pretty close to my preferred lineup: Torres 2B Judge RF Rizzo 1B LeMahieu 3B Stanton DH Bader CF Volpe SS Left Fielder? Catcher Torres is clearly not a traditional leadoff hitter, but I don’t like him much in a run producing role, and want to separate him and Stanton in the lineup. When Torres and Stanton go cold at the same time, lots of rallies just die in the middle of the lineup. Maybe Gleyber gets better pitches to hit in front of Judge. I like professional hitters Rizzo and DJL batting back to back in the middle of the lineup as opposed to high strikeout players. I also like the speed of Bader and Volpe working together further down in the lineup, so the team can generate some runs outside of the big bats. Kinda like Volpe did today. I must think that with guys like Cabrera, Hicks, Trevino, Higgy, etc. batting behind him, Volpe can be even more aggressive on the bases. I equate these two Yankee wins over the Rays to a scene in Rocky IV, when Rocky punches Ivan Drago and draws blood. His trainer states that great line – “He’s not a machine, he’s a man.” The Rays are a very, very good team, but they aren’t .750 good. Some of that big lead they currently have has been built with the benefit of a relatively friendly schedule, ranked 24th toughest in MLB per the baseball-reference.com Strength of Schedule (SOS) rating. I know the Yankees recently being in “last place” (now fourth place) has gotten a lot of mileage in the media and fanbase, but obviously there is perspective to add here. These aren’t the Royals or the A’s. There are legitimate questions to be asked about the building of this team, but in my mind, their performance on the field in light of the injuries is pretty good. Heck, their record would lead the AL Central. I’ll also say something not very popular; I think Aaron Boone has handled the team well. We all can get exasperated with his “they’re working hard, gotta get ‘em tomorrow, etc. etc.” comments when the team struggles, but I suspect his team appreciates it. I won’t say he never shows the strain of a rough patch, but it’s rare that he does, and that’s important. All this said to state the point: there’s plenty of baseball left. The Yankees aren't a perfect team, but they have a lot going for them. A lot can happen in a long season . Baseball history tells us that often a lot does happen.
Next Up: Clarke Schmidt (1-3, 5.35) toes the rubber against Zach Eflin (4-1, 2.91) today at 1:35. Can the Yanks pull out another win? Taking three of four from the Rays would be sweet!