NEW YORK -- The ball rocketed off Clint Frazier's bat in the 11th inning on Tuesday, destined to land in the first rows of the left-field seats, and the Yankees finally had a moment to celebrate. He strutted down the first-base line and thought about the raucous party that would await in the clubhouse: “Club 161,” as he put it.
Amid a trying stretch for all within the pinstriped universe, marked by dugout outbursts and sleepless nights, Frazier filled the role of hero twice. The outfielder grinned after making a highlight-reel catch, then belted a walk-off two-run homer that lifted the Yankees to a 5-3, 11-inning win over the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a feeling that I'm sure that I won't forget, just because of what we've been going through as a team and what I've been going through individually,” Frazier said. “We needed that win. We’ve got to build off of it, show up tomorrow and try to get another ‘W’ that’s a little bit easier than that one.”
Frazier pummeled an Andrew Kittredge slider for his fifth home run of the season, securing the Yankees’ fifth walk-off win of the year -- a welcome party that snapped New York’s four-game slide. Frazier halted in the third-base line, tossing his helmet as though he were attempting a pull-up jumper from the top of the key, then was enveloped by his teammates in raucous celebration.
“We needed that,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Some better things across the board -- not close to where we need to be, but it was an important day today to pull that one out, and a great AB there by Fraz to finish it off.”
Three innings earlier, Frazier had preserved a 3-3 tie by contributing a diving inning-ending catch in right field, stealing a hit from Joey Wendle that would have brought home two runs. With Chad Green on the mound, Wendle lofted a weak fly ball that seemed as though it would elude second baseman Rougned Odor. Frazier charged and snared it at the last possible moment.
“I've really worked hard at my defense and tried to make it something that people can't talk about for the wrong reasons anymore,” Frazier said. “That was a big play for me. Rougie and I were in a unique situation going at it, but I'm the one coming in on the ball. I'm just glad that the ball was able to stick in my glove.”
Thanks in large part to Frazier’s grab, New York’s bullpen combined for six scoreless and hitless frames behind starter Domingo Germán, who permitted three runs and three hits over five innings. Luis Cessa pitched a perfect 11th to pick up the victory.
“They've been great all year,” Boone said. “It's no secret that our pitching has carried us. The starters have been really strong for us, but the bullpen has been there from Jump Street. It's allowed us to close out most of the games we should and are supposed to win.”
Down early, battling back
Having trailed throughout Monday’s series-opening loss, the Yankees were in familiar territory by the midway point of the first inning. Austin Meadows’ two-run homer put them down before a turn at bat, but they scraped for three runs against Rays ace Tyler Glasnow.
Presented with a bases-loaded, two-out opportunity in the third, New York tied the game without hitting the ball. Aaron Judge worked a bases-loaded walk and DJ LeMahieu alertly raced home on a wild pitch. Miguel Andújar gave the Yanks a lead in the fourth, slugging his second opposite-field homer in as many games.
“I think that energy started by the time we arrived today here at the Stadium,” Andújar said through an interpreter. “We could feel the energy, we could feel how much we wanted to play this game. We showed it during the game in the dugout, and I think that was the key tonight -- the high energy that we brought.”
Andújar’s homer held up for all of four minutes, as Kevin Kiermaier connected for a game-tying home run off Germán.
“I cannot allow that to frustrate me, because you have to understand that home runs are a part of the game,” Germán said through an interpreter. “That being said, I’ve got to keep on working and keep following my routine.”
Off the hook
When Frazier made his diving grab in the eighth, no one seemed happier than Gary Sánchez, who hugged his teammate enthusiastically in the dugout. For the Yankees catcher, it was an eventful game by any standards.
Sánchez caught Meadows wandering off first base in the sixth, helping to short circuit a Tampa Bay rally, then made the team’s Major League-leading 27th out on the bases in the seventh by trying to advance from second base to third on a grounder in front of him. Sánchez also air-mailed a throw into center field on a stolen-base attempt.
“Some of the mistakes he's made on the basepaths, we’ve got to clean up and get better at,” Boone said.