When the Trade Deadline passed on Friday afternoon, the Yankees felt they were a better team after acquiring first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Joey Gallo. Later that night, in his first game as a member of the Yankees, Rizzo made his presence felt in a 3-1 victory over the Marlins at loanDepot park.
Rizzo went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored in the game. His first hit as a Yankee came in the sixth inning against right-hander Zach Thompson. Neither team had scored when Rizzo came to the plate and swung at a 1-0 pitch, hitting a mammoth shot over the right-field wall. The blast traveled 449 feet, per Statcast, and gave the Yankees a one-run advantage.
“It was amazing,” Rizzo said. “Coming in, getting the first at-bat out of the way … and kind of getting those jitters out of the way.”
“I was fortunate to wear the Cubs' jersey,” Rizzo said. “I put this [Yankees jersey on] ... it felt really good.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone called Rizzo the offensive story of the night.
“When you [have] those no-doubters, especially in a close game at the time, there is a little rush of adrenaline when you [kind of say], ‘Ooh.’ It is exciting,” Boone said. “It is something that lights up the dugout. Obviously, him being the player that he is, coming in his first day and getting that kind of hit was pretty cool. It definitely electrified the guys a little bit.”
Thompson was trying to throw the pitch to Rizzo on the inside part of the plate, but the ball ended up going on the outside part.
“At that point in the game, I was a little bit tired. Not trying to make an excuse or anything,” Thompson said. “I just missed my spot. It just came out of the wrong spot on my hand, and [he] obviously made me pay for that mistake.”
Rizzo was front and center again in the eighth inning. After Aaron Judge was hit by a pitch thrown by left-hander Richard Bleier, Rizzo singled to left field. With right-hander Zach Pop on the mound, Rizzo and Judge came around to score on a single by Rougned Odor, giving the Yankees some necessary insurance runs.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon was the beneficiary of Rizzo’s presence, pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts.
“I felt I didn’t have my best stuff, but we made it work,” Taillon said. “I don’t know. Baseball is weird. I think there is something to it when you have a little more confidence and you throw your pitches with conviction. The reaction from the hitters are a little better. They don’t hit your mistakes as often.”
Taillon has become a reliable starter for the Yankees recently; in his last seven starts, he is 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. He is showing that his elbow injury is a thing of the past; Taillon missed the 2020 season after having Tommy John surgery.
“He opened up the repertoire a little bit. He expanded his arsenal a little bit,” Boone said. “He started to incorporate his two-seam [fastball] with the slider, changeup -- to go along with his four-seamer and curveball that he has been featuring all year. I think he just settled into the season. The more he has gotten out there on the mound, he is further away from injury.”
Taillon was excited to see Rizzo on his team Friday. The slugger was known to get his way when Taillon was a member of the Pirates, going 10-for-22 [.455] with two home runs and six RBIs against the righty.
“I’ve been seeing that from the other side for a while,” Taillon said. “Don’t look at my numbers against him, please. It’s bad. He really owns me. Rizzo hit a ball off my head a couple of years ago. He has a couple of homers off me.
“He is right on top of the dish. He has a big body. He has a lot of power. The scouting report said to try to pitch him inside, but you have to be really fine. If you miss, that is his wheelhouse. … I really don’t have an answer to pitch him. I didn’t do so well against him. But I’m excited to have him.”
So are the Yankees.