Brooklyn native thrills family, friends with Yankee Stadium HR

Palacios' blast opens scoring vs. team he grew up rooting for before Rays' D falters

April 20th, 2024

NEW YORK -- started his day with a couple of slices of pizza in Manhattan, something he had been craving as he headed for his hometown visit.

“I enjoyed it, for real,” Palacios said. “I’m going to have some more tonight.”

The postgame pie could have been even tastier after Palacios hit a home run to snap a scoreless tie in the sixth inning Friday night. But the Yankees stormed back in the seventh, taking advantage of a pair of errors to score five unearned runs en route to a 5-3 loss for the Rays.

“That was pretty cool,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I was happy for him, and in the moment, you’re like, ‘Is this going to be the one run here?’ It didn't work out that way, but hopefully his family and friends appreciated it; we certainly did.”

Prior to the game, Palacios was all smiles as he talked about being back home and playing at Yankee Stadium, where his father used to take him out of school early to bring him and his brother to day games.

OK, so it’s not the ballpark he spent countless hours at during his youth, cheering on his favorites including Paul O’Neill and Alfonso Soriano; that was the old ballpark on the other side of 161st Street. But it’s still Yankee Stadium, which was enough to get Palacios excited in the hours before first pitch.

“I grew up playing, wanting to play for the Yankees,” Palacios said. “Being able to play against them, winning this series, would mean the world to me. I’m just trying to contribute in any way I possibly can.”

With the teams locked in a scoreless tie in the sixth, Palacios belted a 1-0 cutter from Schmidt into the right-center-field bleachers for his second homer of the season. Palacios appeared to be looking into the stands -- perhaps to find the 100-150 friends and family members in attendance? -- as he rounded the bases, but he later said he didn’t even know where his cheering section was located.

“I was so focused on the game, I had no idea where anybody was,” Palacios said. “I was just looking up; I don't know what I was looking at.”

Grinning from ear to ear as he touched home plate and headed for the dugout, Palacios was welcomed with high fives and hugs from his teammates, clearly aware of the moment’s meaning for the New York native.

“The guys are always behind us,” Palacios said. “We all root for each other, we're always there, so that was awesome for them to be there for me.”

After the Yankees went scoreless in the sixth, it looked as if Palacios’ homer might be the difference-maker. But errors by Curtis Mead and Yandy Díaz opened the door for the Yankees, who took a lead on Anthony Volpe’s RBI single, then broke the game open on a three-run homer by Juan Soto.

Palacios helped spark a two-run rally in the eighth, but the Rays ultimately fell short in the ninth after a bizarre play in center field led to some confusion on the bases for Tampa Bay.

“It stinks to make an error in an inning that kind of blows up, and it leads to ending up being the difference,” Mead said. “It’s frustrating considering we felt we were the better team on the night. To not come away with the win is frustrating.”

The loss proved frustrating for Palacios, though he got to spend time with family and friends on the field after the game. He tried to downplay the personal significance of his home run in a losing effort, but there was no hiding the moment of joy the dinger brought him as it left the yard.

“It’s awesome; what I've always wanted to do,” Palacios said. “If I told my younger self that I did it, I'd definitely be excited. It was definitely an exciting thing to hit a home run with all the fans there and all my family.

“It was loud, it was fun -- but winning is fun. We didn't get that win today and I'm here to win, so we'll double back and get them tomorrow.”