Schmidt goes for season-high 6 2/3 as Yanks blank Rays

May 11th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees starter outdueled Taj Bradley in New York’s 2-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Friday night.

“Slider, sweeper, whatever was really good. The cutter, he had a little bit of everything going tonight,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It was a really, really sharp performance with a couple big pitches when he really needed to in a 1-0 game.”

That combination of Schmidt’s cutter and sweeper kept the Rays’ hitters on their back foot all night.

The Rays managed just three weak singles off Schmidt through the first four innings.

An opposite-field flare by Yandy Díaz to lead off the bottom half of the first, a soft liner through the infield by José Caballero in the third and another opposite-field bloop by Josh Lowe in the fourth was all the offense Tampa Bay could muster in that span. Díaz was forced out at second, Caballero was caught stealing at third and Lowe was erased on an inning-ending double play.

“I feel we had a good game plan going into it,” Schmidt said. “I felt like I was executing pitches all night where even the hits felt like executed pitches. So I felt like I was in a really good spot mechanically, getting to my lanes and my areas so I never really worried when they put some traffic on base.”

The Rays’ offense mildly threatened again in the fifth after a two-out single -- again an opposite-field knock -- by Richie Palacios, who went on to steal second. A walk by Caballero put the potential go-ahead run aboard before Schmidt got Alex Jackson to wave at another sharp sweeper off the outside of the plate to end the inning.

"Clarke Schmidt was really, really good -- cutting it, sweeping it, just working balls away from righties and in to lefties,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “A lot of late movement. It felt like he was placing the ball where he needed to. The cutter-sweeper combination, it’s a really good pitch.

“He’s gotten away from his fastball for good reason, because those other two pitches are really good. He just kind of plays keepaway with the fastball. But the cutter and sweeper, he attacks with, and he can pitch right off that.”

Schmidt (4-1) allowed five hits, struck out six and walked two over 6 2/3 scoreless innings -- his longest outing of the season -- to lower his ERA to 2.95. The ability to work deeper into games by being more conservative with his pitches has been one of the righty’s main focuses this season.

“I know I am capable of controlling my pitch count and [going] deeper into games, so this was a big step in the right direction,” Schmidt said. “I feel that is the next puzzle piece in continuing to get better.”

The Yankees are now 18-0 when leading after six innings this season.

After going hitless through the first three frames, New York finally got on the board in the fourth against Bradley. Aaron Judge walked, and consecutive line-drive singles to left by Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo pushed across the first run of the game.

Rizzo gave the Yankees an insurance run in the top of the ninth when he blasted his seventh home run of the year on the first pitch he saw from Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong.

“It felt good, especially to get us another run there,” Rizzo said. “Anytime you can add late on the opposing team, it kind of deflates them a little bit.”

Stanton also singled in the top of the sixth to finish the night 2-for-4.