When the Yankees decided to play with the use of an Opener during Tuesday night’s game, some critics wondered if they had just punched their ticket to a postseason loss. But the Yankees being the Yankees (the immovable object to the Rays unstoppable force), they turned the tables when the Rays brought in an Opener on Thursday.
The Opener being the Rays bread and butter, and a pitching manoeuvre that has served them well for the past several seasons, it seemed like a wise enough move to lean on what they knew, but the Yankees took every available opportunity, and even though the game wasn’t even remotely a blowout, it was enough that the Rays key AL East rivals were able to force a game five on Friday night.
Ryan Thompson served as the game’s opener, going 1 2⁄3 innings, and while he struck out three in that time, he also walked three batters and gave up two runs. The first was a solo home run from Luke Voit in the bottom of the second inning, then things got messy from there. Gardner walked, Torres walked, then Urshela walked to load the bases with Bombers. A DJ LeMahieu sac fly scored Gardner to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. It also spelled the end of the night for Thompson, who was then replaced with bulk innings pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, who quickly got Aaron Judge out to end the inning.
The Rays fought back in the top of the third, as Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery started to show signs of wear. Willy Adames walked, Kevin Kiermaier hit a ground rule double, and Yandy Diaz walked. Bases loaded. Slumping slugger Brandon Lowe then grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Adames and put the Rays on the board.
Montgomery continued to struggle against the Rays in the fourth, giving up a leadoff single to Ji-Main Choi and walking Adames, but the team weren’t able to take advantage of having two men on. They did manage to chase Montgomery from the game at that point though.
In the bottom of the fourth Yarbrough gave up a single to Gardner, but no runs scored. To kick off the fifth the Yankees changed to Chad Green, who had a clean inning, and in the bottom of the fifth Yarbrough only gave up a walk to Aaron Judge.
Things went quietly for both teams until the bottom of the sixth inning, as Yarbrough gave up another single to Gardner, and then a Gleyber Torres home run brought the score to 4-1 for the Yankees. Yarbrough finished off the inning, but was done for the game, with a final line for the night of 5.0IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 1K on 65 pitches.
The seventh was scoreless for both teams with Aaron Slegers coming on for the Rays and by the eighth, Britton was pulled after the first two outs of the inning to give way for Aroldis Chapman.
It got pretty ugly in the bottom of the eighth as Torres singled, and Higashioka singled to score Torres and bring the score to 5-1. The bases were loaded after that, as Slegers gave up a single to LeMahieu, and a fielding error by Brosseau allowed Aaron Judge to get on base safely. Thankfully no further runs scored.
Even though there was no longer a save situation in place, Chapman returned for the top of the ninth, and ended the game in short order, giving the Yankees a 5-1 victory and forcing a winner-take-all Game 5.