Having slugged a homer to clinch the Yanks’ seventh consecutive victory, a 2-1 win over the Rays on Thursday evening at Yankee Stadium to complete the sweep, Rizzo gestured as though he was securing the team’s famous championship belt across his waistline. Later, as he clutched the real thing, Rizzo announced that there’s never just one contributor -- a season like this takes everyone.
“It says a lot about what our clubhouse is about; guys coming in and feeling right away that they’re part of this thing,” Rizzo said. “There’s a lot of big names in this clubhouse, and you would never know inside. Everyone is treated on the same level, whether you have a couple of days in the big leagues or 15 years. We keep it loose.”
Rizzo drove in both Yankees runs to fuel their continued dominance at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue, helping the Bombers (47-16) win their 14th consecutive game at Yankee Stadium, a record for this incarnation of the building.
That made Rizzo a worthy recipient of the jewel-encrusted wrestling-style belt, passed around the clubhouse in honor of that game’s most significant contributor, a responsibility that comes with delivering a closed-door speech to teammates. As Rizzo accepted his prize, he noted the other contributions that made such a victory possible.
“I thought Rizzo said it really well,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s something we say in Spring Training when the full group is there. Look around; even if you don’t think you’re going to impact us, there’s a chance you might come up in a huge spot. One day, one week, whatever. Make sure you’re ready.”
When Luis Severino landed on the COVID-19 injured list, Schmidt was tabbed as the fill-in starter, provided only a few hours of notice before taking the ball for his third big league start. Accustomed to his long-relief role, Schmidt treated the outing like a relief appearance, eschewing the usual outfield machinations of a starting pitcher.
The mindset worked; asked by Boone to provide three innings and 50 pitches, Schmidt hit those numbers precisely, striking out five and permitting just one hit.
“Whatever name is called, you’re expected to get the job done,” Schmidt said. “It’s been happening every single time. That’s just a testament to this team. There’s so many things that go on behind the scenes as far as development and information. It’s just showing every day and night on the field.”
Weber’s fourth-inning entrance prompted a chorus of questioning cries from a crowd of 39,469; likely only the most ardent fans would recognize the 31-year-old journeyman, but Boone and the Yankees sure did. A non-roster invitee this spring, Weber had pitched to a 2.95 ERA this year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before his contract was purchased on Thursday.
Making his Yankees debut, Weber momentarily wondered if his reception would be impacted by previous service in a Red Sox uniform (2019-21). Those thoughts vanished as he retired 11 Rays, touched only by Francisco Mejía's fifth-inning home run. Rizzo tied the game an inning later, stroking an RBI single off Ryan Thompson.
Ron Marinaccio and Michael King combined to record the last seven outs, then Rizzo connected on a big swing. So there Rizzo was in the center of the clubhouse, fog machine pumping and hip-hop beats thumping, clutching the belt and explaining why it belongs to all of them. He’d hold it for the night; tomorrow it might be in your hands.
“It’s going to take all 26 guys; it’s probably going to take probably 40-plus guys on the roster throughout the year,” Rizzo said. “That’s our job -- when guys do come in, to make them feel as comfortable as fast and quick as possible.”