Rizzo part of big day for playoff-hungry Yanks

1B hits go-ahead homer; Britton, Effross return; Bader flashes glove in win over Sox

September 25th, 2022

NEW YORK -- More than 47,000 fans came to Yankee Stadium Saturday hoping to witness Aaron Judge make history.

Judge went homerless for the fourth straight game, but Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and Oswaldo Cabrera all went deep in a 7-5 win over the Red Sox, as the Yankees received contributions from some players who could be keys to their success come October.

The win reduced New York’s magic number to clinch the American League East to three.

“It's getting closer,” Rizzo said. “Step one is to make the playoffs; right after that is winning the division. We knew coming in this year that winning the division was a big deal and we’ve put ourselves in position to do that.”

Judge will resume his pursuit of No. 61 Sunday night as the Yankees look to finish off a sweep of the Red Sox, moving closer to their first division title since 2019. As for Saturday, there were other developments that mattered in the Bronx:

Rizzo makes his own history
Rizzo swatted his 32nd home run of the season, a two-run blast in the seventh inning that broke a 5-5 tie and provided the winning margin for the Yankees. The 32 homers match Rizzo’s personal best, which he accomplished in 2014, ‘16 and ‘17 as a member of the Cubs.

“It feels nice,” Rizzo said. “You want to have good at-bats and make the pitcher stress every time out there.”

Rizzo returned from the injured list on Sunday after missing 14 games, going 5-for-22 (.227) with two homers and three RBIs in five games -- all Yankees victories.

“I'm excited that he's feeling the way he is now; I’m really hoping and feeling like we're past the back issue,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He's gotten a lot of big hits for us this year, and that was a big one there.”

Welcome back Zack -- and Scott
Lefty Zack Britton made his first appearance of 2022, 54 weeks after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.

Britton -- who admitted to being “very anxious” during his warmup in the bullpen -- allowed a run on one hit and three walks in just one-third of an inning, but the veteran left-hander was encouraged by both his velocity and movement, confident that the command will be there for him soon enough.

“It’s good to get that one out of the way,” Britton said. “I felt fine afterwards, so now it's about putting together good outings and improving the command.”

The Yankees also welcomed Scott Effross back from the IL after he missed a month with a right shoulder strain. Effross earned the save Saturday with a scoreless ninth, though not before he loaded the bases by allowing a hit, a walk and hitting a batter.

“He's been in some big spots for us this year in the little time that he's been with us and he’s always handled himself really well,” Boone said of Effross, who was acquired from the Cubs prior to the Trade Deadline. “He’ll definitely be in that high leverage mix.”

It remains to be seen which relievers Boone trusts in those high-leverage situations come October, but Britton can certainly work his way into that mix if he begins to resemble his pre-surgery All-Star form.

“Those are two guys that have a chance to impact us,” Boone said. “We've got no other choice. The reality is we have really good arms and options down there. It's an opportunity for somebody to grab a more significant role moving forward and we’ve got to do it that way.”

Quite a catch
When the Yankees acquired Harrison Bader from the Cardinals prior to the Trade Deadline, the word was they were getting a Gold Glove center fielder who could impact the game in a number of ways.

Saturday, Bader did so with that golden glove, making a highlight-reel play in the eighth inning. The Yankees were trying to protect a two-run lead, but Boston had the tying runs on base with one out when Abraham Almonte hit a sinking liner to center.

Bader got a great jump, then made a headfirst dive to snag the ball, saving at least one run if not more.

“That's a great play he made,” Boone said. “There's a short list of people making that; getting that read, jump, diving straight, headfirst like that. That’s an elite play out there. That’s who he’s been in his career.”

Bader, who won an NL Gold Glove last year, has been having a blast since he returned from the IL on Tuesday, contributing on both offense and defense as the Yankees are 5-0 since he was activated.

“That was one of the nicest ones I've seen,” said Rizzo, who played against Bader from 2017-21 in the NL Central. “That's a really nice read, coming straight in. He can go get it out there; he's got a really good arm. Pitching and defense is going to take us to the Promised Land.”