Rays Rally From Early Deficit, Survive Ninth To Defeat Yankees 8-7

Tampa Bay gave up three runs in the top of the first

The Tampa Bay Rays responded to a rough first inning from opener Ryne Stanek to defeat the New York Yankees 8-7 and tie the season series as nine games apiece on Wednesday night in St. Petersburg.

New York got all their scoring done at the ends of the ballgame, scoring three runs in the top of the first and four runs in the top of the ninth.

It was a wild first inning on Wednesday night.  The Yankees jumped out to a quick lead on a three-run first inning home run by Neil Walker that plated Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton, but the Rays responded in kind by batting around in the bottom half of the frame.

The 3-3 tie was broken in the bottom of the third inning, when Tommy Pham took the first pitch he saw straight out to center to make it 4-3.  The homer, Pham’s 21st of the season, was hit so hard that it bounced off the batter’s eye blue wall in center field, landing back on the field.

Rays headliner (the guy after an opener) Yonny Chirinos came in for the second inning with the game tied.  For three innings, he cooled off the Yankee bats that had been so warm against opener Ryne Stanek.  In the fifth inning, his fourth, the Yankees warmed back up.  The Bronx Bombers loaded the bases with one out for all-everything slugger Stanton.  The former Marlin hit a sharp bouncing ball at third baseman Joey Wendle, who started a double play with it.  Chirinos deserves credit for inducing that grounder, and the Rays’ infield deserves equal credit for handling it easily.  It could not have been a much bigger play, preserving the Rays’ one-run lead as the game became official.

Tampa Bay held on until the bottom of the eighth when they could finally expand their lead.  C.J. Cron doubled to the wall in left center to score Tommy Pham and make it a 5-3 lead for the Rays.  Cron came around to score two batters later, beating out a throw home from third baseman Miguel Andujar with the infield pulled in.  The Rays kept the eighth inning rally up, bringing the score to 8-3 to make the four-out save easy for Sergio Romo.

The Yankees managed to load the bases on Romo in the ninth, showing the value of those insurance runs the half-inning prior as an Aaron Judge RBI single narrowed the gap to 8-4 with the tying run coming to the plate in the form of Luke Voit.  Voit hit the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark, the only reason it stayed within the boundaries for a two-run single.  Giancarlo Stanton singled to third shortly thereafter, scoring Judge to narrow the gap to 8-7.

Stanek owns the opener role, becomes statistical anomaly

Of all the pitchers who have been used in the Rays’ opener role, Ryne Stanek has been the standout.  Wednesday night marked his 28th appearance in the early innings, the second most first inning appearances on the team behind only Cy Young Award contender Blake Snell.  Technically, he now shares in the record for the longest streak of winless starts with Jo-Jo Reyes from 2008-2011 and Matt Keough in 1978-1979.

Stanek’s eight starts without allowing a hit are the most in any season.  This after setting the first-half record for the most starts without allowing a run.  He has started on 0 days’ rest more often than anybody since the Dead Ball Era, and he now owns the record for the most starts of one inning or less.

However, Wednesday night was just not Ryne Stanek’s night.  The Yankees jumped all over Stanek from the jump, with Andrew McCutchen leading off with a home run, Giancarlo Stanton drawing a walk, and Neil Walker hitting a home run to dead center to put the Yankees up 3-0 before the Rays came to bat once.

An opening act at a concert can steal a show, and a bad enough one can take all the energy out of the room, making life difficult for the headliner.  This almost happened to the Rays on Wednesday night, but after a long season of the pitching keeping some low-scoring games very close, the Rays’ bats bailed out Stanek and brought the game level before Chirinos could come in.

Smith keeps up the pace on the basepaths

Rays’ leadoff hitter Mallex Smith started the bottom of the first with a single, and promptly stole second base.  The swipe was Smith’s 37th of the season, a career high by a wide margin and a sign of things to come for the young outfielder.

Having players like Mallex Smith allows the Tampa bay Rays to be aggressive on the basepaths, which has become part of the team’s DNA.

Last week injuries start to pile up

After Ji-Man Choi was checked—and cleared—for a concussion after a collision at home plate on Tuesday night, the Rays continued to add to their list of players at less than 100%.  Kevin Kiermaier left the game before the fourth inning after being hit with a pitch in the right foot in the first.  He was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in that foot, effectively ending his season a few days early.  Third baseman Matt Duffy also left the game early, citing tightness in his right quad.

What’s next for Rays

The Rays and the Yankees conclude their season series with a Getaway Day afternoon game on Thursday.  Earlier in the week, Tampa Bay had scheduled Tyler Glasnow to start on Thursday against CC Sabathia, but Glasnow was pushed back to Friday, leading to another bullpen day for the Rays in the matinee.  The opening inning or two will belong to Jamie Schultz.

The season series between the Rays and Yankees will be at stake.  The Tampa Bay Rays have beaten the Yankees nine times.  They have also lost to the Yankees nine times.  A season series win over a team like New York would be a tremendous confidence builder for a team as young as the Rays as they soon head into the offseason.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.