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Rays edge Yankees in 11 to retake first place

Meadows hits go-ahead home run; bullpen throws 5 scoreless innings
@ladsonbill24
May 18, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Rays and Yankees found themselves in another nail-biter on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. When it was over, it was the Rays who won the game, 2-1, in 11 innings. Tampa Bay is now a half-game ahead of New York in the American League East. The

NEW YORK -- The Rays and Yankees found themselves in another nail-biter on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. When it was over, it was the Rays who won the game, 2-1, in 11 innings. Tampa Bay is now a half-game ahead of New York in the American League East.

The game was tied at 1 when Austin Meadows swung at a 2-2 pitch from right-hander Luis Cessa and hit the ball into the right-field stands for his ninth home run of the season.

It was namely a battle of the bullpens, however, and both sides were nasty. The Rays’ bullpen, for example, pitched five scoreless innings and struck out six batters. Five of those strikeouts came from right-hander Emilio Pagán.

Box score

“Our pitchers have been on a really good run,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I know we are playing a lot of tight ballgames right now. But they are picking us up in a lot of ways. It was no different from today. To a man, they come in, they execute. For Emilio, to pitch those two innings was pretty special.”

Don’t forget how big José Alvarado was in the game. After losing Friday night’s game, he redeemed himself and picked up his fifth save of the season. After allowing a leadoff single to Luke Voit, Alvarado struck out Aaron Hicks and then induced Gary Sánchez to hit into a double play to end the game.

Cash wasn’t surprised to see Alvarado bounce back from the previous night. Alvarado spoke to the skipper Saturday morning and told him he wanted the ball. As Cash put it, a hiccup that Alvarado went through on Friday will not derail a pitcher like him mentally.

“We checked with him today. He felt good. He wanted the ball, and he wanted to pitch,” Cash said about Alvarado. “We had a chance to win, and we wanted him out there.

Alvarado wouldn’t say Friday was easy to deal with, but he looked at Saturday as a new day.

“I have to look at the situation and pay attention to the game,” Alvarado said. … “So I tried to stay focused as long as I could. When the opportunity [came up], I was going to be ready.”

Meadows puts Rays ahead, plays great defense

Meadows did not see the home run as payback for the way Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia tried to hit him with a pitch the previous night.

“Yesterday was what it is,” Meadows said. “Like we were talking about last night, he tried to hit me. We watched it, we responded well today. It was a tough day. We are always going to play the Yankees close. Being able to come out with a win was big.

Earlier in the game, Meadows’ arm saved the Yankees from the scoring in the sixth inning. With a runner on second, Gleyber Torres singled to left field. Ignoring the stop sign from third-base coach Phil Nevin, Hicks tried to score, but Meadows threw him out at the plate on a bang-bang play. Meadows’ throw was clocked at 88.4 mph.

“For me, I saw him rounding third. I tried to get the ball as quick as I could. I was able to put the ball where I wanted it. That was definitely big for us,” Meadows said.

The starters on both sides were excellent. Rays left-hander Blake Snell pitched six innings and allowed one run on six hits and struck out nine batters.

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was just as good, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out six batters. He left the game after he kick-saved a liner to first baseman Luke Voit off the bat of Yandy Díaz.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.