Yanks' skid vs. TB ends, rivalry just beginning

September 2nd, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have been searching for a spark to reverse their fortunes against the Rays, who have owned the upper hand in most of their head-to-head showdowns this season. and provided what they needed from the batter’s box, and then the real fireworks took over.

LeMahieu homered twice and Urshela completed a sixth-inning dash around the bases with a terrific slide in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory Tuesday, then tensions escalated between the American League East rivals, both benches and bullpens clearing as Frank Sinatra’s recorded vocals spilled from the Yankee Stadium loudspeakers.

“It sounds like they're going to try to throw at us tomorrow,” LeMahieu said. “We'll be ready.”

Both teams are likely to be issued umpire warnings prior to Wednesday’s series finale, as they were following Aroldis Chapman’s ninth-inning pitch to Mike Brosseau, a 101 mph fastball that sailed over the batter’s head. When Brosseau struck out to end the game, commentary was exchanged between the teams.

Rays manager Kevin Cash unloaded in a fiery postgame tirade, alleging that Chapman’s pitch had been intentional, speaking about the Yankees’ “poor judgement, poor coaching” before adding: “I have a whole damn stable of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.”

The Rays also believed that Joey Wendle had been hit intentionally by Masahiro Tanaka in the first inning. Cash’s comments, which manager Aaron Boone called “pretty scary,” circulated rapidly in the Yanks’ clubhouse. Chapman declined to speak, but left-hander Zack Britton said that he believed Chapman’s pitch had not been intentional.

“What was this, Chappy's third inning?” Britton said. “I mean, he's working through some rust. He didn't have much of a buildup at all. He's still not as sharp as he's going to be, so what [the Rays] decide to do is on them. We'll see how it transpires, but I would hope nothing would go further than what it did today.”

The Yankees and Rays have exchanged purpose pitches for years; earlier this season, Aaron Judge recalled a fastball that sailed over Austin Romine’s head in September 2018, which had prompted CC Sabathia to drill Tampa Bay’s Jesús Sucre in retaliation. Romine, Sabathia and Sucre are all elsewhere, but the rivalry clearly has continued.

“I think it was just some back and forth with the ball coming close to Brosseau there, so they're upset with it,” Boone said. “I understand that can be scary when you get it near your guy. … I just don't want to see anyone get hurt.”

Race around the bases

LeMahieu is likely to be the first Yankee to bat on Wednesday, presenting an interesting scenario considering he will be returning to home plate after the fourth multi-homer game of his career.

Facing Rays starter Trevor Richards in the first, LeMahieu provided Tanaka with an early lead by slugging a line drive to the left-field seats, then connected on an opposite-field drive in the third that carried over the right-field wall.

“It feels good to get us going, get our offense going a little bit,” LeMahieu said. “It felt good to get those swings off tonight.”

Tanaka gave back the runs in the fifth, as Kevin Kiermaier slugged a two-run homer to the second deck in right field, his second homer of the series. Batting against right-hander Ryan Thompson in the sixth, Urshela drilled a liner toward right-center field, where Kiermaier – a three-time Gold Glove winner -- whiffed on a diving attempt.

Kiermaier smashed his palm into the outfield turf as Luke Voit and Clint Frazier trotted home easily. Urshela stopped briefly at third base, then bolted when shortstop Willy Adames air-mailed his throw to the screen behind home plate. Thompson was there to back up and tossed to catcher Michael Perez in what appeared to be plenty of time, but Urshela eluded the tag with a nifty swim move.

“I was running and I saw the catcher get the ball,” Urshela said. “I said, ‘Oh, I've got to do something to get to home plate.’ I tried to do my best move. Thank God I was safe."

Rumble in the Bronx

The three-run play proved to be the difference as the Yankees bested the Rays for just the second time in nine tries this season.

Tanaka pitched through the sixth, scattering three hits and striking out seven while tossing a season-high 88 pitches. Adames homered off Jonathan Loaisiga in the seventh before Britton and Chapman retired all six batters they faced -- albeit not without drama.

“We're battling for the same thing,” Britton said. “We want to win the division, they want to win the division. They're playing really well. I think it's just emotions fly high sometimes in close games like this. And it's not the first time between us.”