The Yankees’ swagger returned with one swing early on Thursday evening, Luke Voit dropping his bat and eyeing a monstrous second-inning drive. The frustration of the previous two nights evaporated into the Southern California haze, sparking optimism that this clash of division titans will be remembered as a comeback story.
Voit launched a 453-foot blast for his first postseason homer and Gleyber Torres added a two-run shot as the Yankees came out swinging, celebrating a 5-1 victory over the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. New York will hand ace Gerrit Cole the ball for a winner-take-all contest on Friday at Petco Park.
“We’re going to win it,” Voit said. “Gerrit on the mound, that’s the best situation possible for us. We’re locked and loaded. It’s a big win, big momentum for us.”
The Yankees’ confidence stems largely from their belief in Cole, who is preparing to take the ball on short rest for the first time in his professional career. Tampa Bay plans to start Tyler Glasnow -- on two days’ rest -- in a rematch of last year’s ALDS Game 5, and the victor will meet the Astros for the American League Championship Series.
"If we're going to have somebody out there, I want it to be [Cole]," said Jordan Montgomery, who fired four solid innings in his first start since Sept. 24. "It's always fun to watch him. He's a great competitor. He definitely leaves it all out on the field."
Unwilling to check out of the posh Carlsbad, Calif., resort that they have been sharing with their AL East rivals, the Yankees extended their stay by riding a stellar three-hit effort by Montgomery and three relievers, forcing the 10th ALDS Game 5 in franchise history and their first since 2017.
“I knew they’d come ready to play,” manager Aaron Boone said. “I knew they’d relish the opportunity of a win-or-go-home game. Everyone came up big tonight.”
Tampa Bay scored its only run off Montgomery in the third inning as Willy Adames walked, advanced on a ground-rule double and came home when DJ LeMahieu smothered a Brandon Lowe grounder for a fielder’s choice.
“He did a great job of setting the tone for us, giving just what we needed,” Boone said. “I thought he was really good. He dictated some counts. You saw swings and misses on pitches out of the zone, and he made big pitches when he needed to.”
Montgomery walked three and struck out four before yielding to the bullpen. Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for five innings of scoreless, hitless relief, retiring 15 of the final 16 Rays.
“They did a really good job,” Torres said. “Greenie, Zack and Chapman were amazing. All year, we believed in our bullpen. Tonight, they did the best job they could do. It’s great for us.”
Boone said that he sensed additional “edge” in the dugout as the minutes ticked down to Thursday’s first pitch. Voit attributed that to the outcomes of Games 2 and 3, when Tampa Bay thumped the Bombers’ hurlers for 15 runs and 21 hits, shifting the momentum after New York’s convincing victory behind Cole in Game 1.
Saying that he wanted to provide “a little fire to get the boys going,” Voit shifted the narrative by teeing off on a 77.1 mph slider from opener Ryan Thompson, rounding the bases for his first career postseason blast. Voit paced the Majors with 22 homers during the regular season.
“It was a big blow early to give us a lead,” Boone said. “I really feel like Luke has had some really good swings. To get a result of really cleaning one out there to get us rolling was big.”
LeMahieu added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to pad the lead, but left-hander Ryan Yarbrough retired Aaron Judge on a groundout, limiting the damage.
Yarbrough kept the Yanks off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Torres pelted the Western Metal Supply Co. building, his teammates roaring as the baseball landed in the rarely visited fourth deck of the turn-of-the-century structure.
“We never feel panic,” Torres said. “Playing in the playoffs with the Yankees right now, that’s awesome. You’re coming to the field to enjoy the moment, trying to be great and trying to help the team win.”
Kyle Higashioka provided more cushion in the eighth with a run-scoring single.
“We're just a bunch of caged animals,” Voit said. “We've got a lot of grit on this team. We knew this was going to be a crazy and special series. We're up for the challenge, no matter what happens.”