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Sanchez's 461-foot HR caps Yanks' 5-run 10th

New York bats erupt after Chapman lets lead slip away in ninth
@Sportsgal25
July 4, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- As he gazed out onto the field following the ninth inning on Thursday night, the look on Aroldis Chapman's face represented a mixture of defeat, frustration, anger and remorse. The Yankees’ closer -- one of the Majors’ best -- doesn’t slip often, but when he does, he

ST. PETERSBURG -- As he gazed out onto the field following the ninth inning on Thursday night, the look on Aroldis Chapman's face represented a mixture of defeat, frustration, anger and remorse.

The Yankees’ closer -- one of the Majors’ best -- doesn’t slip often, but when he does, he takes it hard. A pair of wild pitches and a blown save weighed heavy on the lefty’s mind as he leaned against the dugout rail at Tropicana Field.

His teammates didn’t give him a chance to brood for long, stringing together a five-run 10th inning that was punctuated by a moonshot from batterymate Gary Sánchez during New York’s 8-4 win over the Rays.

Box score

“It’s unbelievable,” said New York starter J.A. Happ, who held the Rays to one run during his 5 1/3 innings. “[Chapman’s] been so good, and the fact that he kept it even there after they tied it, that’s huge for us. We feel like if we get another chance, more often than not, we’re going to get it done.

“That’s exactly what happened."

Victory at first appeared a given as the Yankees took a 3-1 lead -- and all the momentum -- into the ninth inning. The script quickly flipped in the bottom of the frame though, when Chapman squandered New York’s lead on an RBI double from Joey Wendle and a pair of two-out wild pitches.

Back-to-back singles and a walk later, Chapman was officially in trouble and the bases were loaded for Austin Meadows, who struck out to send the game to extras.

“[I had] a tough time out there right in that inning,” Chapman said, “but I was able to concentrate and get the job done.”

A pair of walks and a bunt single by Brett Gardner in the top of the 10th inning had the bases loaded with no outs as DJ LeMahieu strode to the plate amid “MVP!” cheers from the stands. LeMahieu -- one of four Yankees All-Stars this season along with Chapman, Sanchez and Gleyber Torres -- sandwiched a two-run single between short and third off Emilio Pagan.

After Aaron Hicks struck out, Sanchez put an exclamation point on the night by crushing Pagan’s first offering into the upper-deck seats in left field. It scored three to push New York’s lead to 8-3, marked Sanchez’s 24th homer of the season and, as manager Aaron Boone said, “took the air out of the building.”

The shot traveled a projected 461 feet and left his bat at 113.7 mph, per Statcast.

“It was maybe the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” LeMahieu said. “I don’t know what the Statcast was on it, but it’s 500 feet, I don’t care what anybody says.”

“It wasn’t a terrible pitch,” Pagan said. “Probably caught a little too much of the inner half of the plate, but it was a slider down.

“It’s one of those things where he’s just sitting on it, and he’s a really good hitter.”

Two months ago, the Yankees visited Tropicana Field under a magnifying glass and a whole lot of pressure.

The Rays were in first place in the American League East and New York’s lineup was decimated by injury, forcing many youngsters to mature quickly in order to fill in the gaps. A sense of make-a-statement-now hung heavy in the air as a result, and the Yankees took two of three from the hosts during a series that included plenty of fireworks.

Two months later, New York is in control of the division by 7 1/2 games and has won eight of 10 contests against Tampa Bay this season. The Yankees have dominated the division in 2019, and Thursday’s opener marked 10 consecutive wins against the AL East, their longest such stretch since May 26-July 3, 1999 (13 games). The victory also pushed New York to a season-high 27 games over .500.

“Big-time at-bats and a great job of not letting a ninth-inning comeback define the day,” Boone said. “These guys went out and took it back.”

Sanchez’s home run snapped an 0-for-14 slump he’d been in since the London Series.

“It’s not a secret, the kind of thing that we have here,” Sanchez said through a translator. “We never give up. No matter what happens, we’re not going to give up. Chapman came in and tried to close the game, couldn’t do that, but still held the game and gave us a chance.

“Team effort, like always. That’s the team we have; we never give up.”

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.