Wednesday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees had some definite juice going into it. The two teams have been at each other’s neck on and off for the better part of the past four seasons, as so many outlets laid out in the past 24 hours, including this very site.
In case you live next to Patrick the Starfish (under a rock), the action boiled over Tuesday night when Yankees pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka (he of the truly elite control...), threw a pitch behind Rays infielder, Joey Wendle, before plunking him on the very next pitch. Then, D.J. Lemahieu got butt hurt that his aggressive leaning over the plate got taken away from him for a second like a kid losing his binkie, and so certified Not Good Man, Aroldis Chapman, fired 101 mph missile at the head of Mike Brosseau that could easily have ended his career.
(That paragraph 100 percent unbiased.)
Cut to: Wednesday night when the Rays and Yankees would square off in their final meeting of the 2020 season, a night that was bound to have fireworks but no managers (both were suspended, along with Chapman, for their roles in the hullabaloo).
The Rays got to grab the sticks first, and in this game, that seemed to make all the difference. The Rays dugout was different loud right from the jump, and the bats took no pause in joining them in the ruckus.
Jordan Montgomery got the call for the Yanks, and it appeared he wanted none of the smoke, as Manuel Margot started things off with a leadoff double down the right field line. Next up was future United States president (no, I’m not too high on Randy, why do you ask?), Randy Arozarena, who left the yard in his ninth official plate appearance as a Ray. The long ball gave the Rays the early 2-0 lead and initiated lots of chirping from the Rays dugout. You love to see it.
Austin Meadows kept Monty’s tough night going with a single to right before the man who saw his life flash before his eyes Tuesday night stepped in from the cleanup spot. And cleanup is just what Mikey Brosseau did.
It was a 408-foot blast, and it was around this time I spent three straight minutes giggling. As DRB’s nomo put it: “Revenge is a dish best served in the seats.”
So, just to put a fine point on it: The first four batters of the game for the Rays—the night after getting into a war of words with the most entitled team in baseball—went: double, homer, single, homer, with the final blast coming from the man who was at the center of it all Tuesday night. You legitimately couldn’t draw up a better start for the Rays, or a worse start for the Yankees.
(I’d link to a certain Twitter personality asking for a restart, but we don’t link to goons from that outlet here at DRB.)
The Rays managed to chase Montgomery before he even got out of the first inning, but Nick Nelson got the third out with the bases loaded to limit the damage to four runs. But the punch had landed. The Yankees seemed stunned for the next five innings, and the game truly didn’t feel close until the very end, but let’s get there chronologically.
Charlie Morton got the start for the Rays, his first time on the mound in nearly a month, and after that kind of a first inning, it was necessary to lock it in on the other end. And Morton did just that. He walked one in the first inning, and one batter reached on a strikeout plus passed ball, but Morton cruised through the second, and looked excellent in his return to the mound; more good news for the Rays.
After that wild top of the first, things settled down quite a bit, though, with the two bullpens both looking excellent. John Curtiss was the first to get the call for the Rays, replacing Morton in the bottom of the third after Morton hit his pitch count for his return game.
There was an interesting contact comparison in the bottom of the third and top of the fourth that lays out just how much luck and defensive positioning can matter. Let’s turn to Jason Collette to show us in a pair of tweets:
Luke Voit just hit a snot rocket line drive to the wall in left that was caught for an out. Had an xBA of .960 pic.twitter.com/DADiSLd7BD— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) September 3, 2020
The Rays were rocking the four-man outfield, and it was perfectly placed to take away an almost certain hit from Voit. Meanwhile, in the top of the fourth:
and Brosseau's second home run also had a .960 xBA, but since he hit it over everyone's head, a four-man OF shift would not have stopped it.— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) September 3, 2020
2 homers tonight: 104.9 & 104.6 . Remember when Chapman threw that hard? https://t.co/Y07hcJCZXV
Oh, and yes. That was that Brosseau leaving the yard for the second time in the game. Hmmmm, maybe y’all shouldn’t have poked the bear, huh?
The Yankees got their first hit in the bottom of the fourth, with a Gio Urshela double after a Clint Frazier one-out walk. However, John (Curtiss) was able to pull off the nicest escape by a person names Curtis(s) since Halloween with back-to-back strikeouts of Mike Tauchman and Gary Sanchez to keep the score 5-0.
In the top of the fifth, we got our first hit batter of the game, but it certainly didn’t look intentional, as Yankee pitcher Ben Heller’s reactions was instantly angry at himself. Nonetheless, he was ejected, which was probably wisest on this day, and so the Yanks had to dig deeper into their bullpen, losing Heller after just two batters.
The Yankees got their first run in the bottom of the sixth, with Clint Frazier hitting one off the foul pole (yes, I do call it the fair pole when the Rays hit it, thank you very much), to bring the margin back down to four. (Although the margin felt larger still.)
The Rays turned to Aaron Loup after Diego Castillo, and Loup was excellent. Then it was Aaron Slegers Time, and the Slegend was dominant in the seventh and eighth, with the Rays getting a bit greedy leaving him in to start the ninth.
But let’s pause here a second for a moment of appreciation: the Rays’ ability to pull “random” relievers out of relative nowhere and make them the types who hold the Yankees to two runs over seven massive innings in the tin-house of a stadium is truly unprecedented—let’s make sure we never gloss over just how nice it is to have this.
After Slegers gave up a one-out single, the Rays turned to Peter Fairbanks who made things interesting for a second, walking Mike Ford and giving up an RBI single to DJLM to allow the tying run up to the plate in the form of toxic masculinity personified, Luke Voit. Thankfully, much like actual toxic masculinity, Voit was retired and the Rays left town with the W, and some really big news!
(In all seriousness, this is one of the most fun rivalries in baseball right now, and I’m really hoping the two teams meet up in this year’s postseason, hypothetically with a pennant on the line. It would make for amazing TV.)