Today was a very big deal for Rays fans, and for one pitcher who has waited three and a half years to make his major league debut. Expectations were at an all-time high on Sunday, with Brent Honeywell Jr. getting the call up after Chris Archer was placed on the 10-day IL.
Honeywell was poised to take the Opener role on Sunday’s game ahead of Michael Wacha on bulk innings. You would never have known it was Honeywell’s major league debut to look at him. The 26-year-old was calm and poised, looking every inch the professional as he took the mound for the first time and faced off against the strongest hitters in the Yankees lineup.
For two innings, Honeywell was untouchable. He toyed with a mixture of pitches, throwing off seasoned batters with his mid-80s screwball/changeup, and then touching the mid-90s with ease on his fastball. He was in control and looked comfortable at work. It wasn’t until the game had been handed over to Wacha and Honeywell was able to rest on the dugout railing alongside Tyler Glasnow that we even saw him crack a smile.
Honeywell’s final line through two innings was 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, on 21 pitches.
Brett Honeywell did pretty well, too.
4 surgeries and 3.5 years later. Brent Honeywell finally makes his MLB debut. pic.twitter.com/6AfJLW4TBW— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 11, 2021
As for the rest of the game, well, it was a bit too close for comfort all around. Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees starter, didn’t even get through the first inning without hitting Austin Meadows with a pitch. Regardless of whether or not it was intentional, it appeared that benches were warned, and the Rays dugout definitely looked spicy about the whole thing.
In the second inning, they got the best form of revenge with a two-run home run off the bat of catcher Mike Zunino, scoring himself and Mike Brosseau (a two-Mike home run?) and giving the Rays the early lead in the game.
Honeywell gave way to Michael Wacha, and it might be fair to say that bulk innings was not a comfortable role for Wacha, who may have warmed too early or sat too long, but in the third he looked legitimately rough against the Yankees. First came the two-run shot off Gio Urshela (who actually managed to break part of the batter’s eye), scoring himself and Gary Sánchez to tie the game 2-2.
Wacha wasn’t out of trouble yet. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam with nobody out. He managed to luck into a groundball double play, but Brett Gardner was able to score, giving the Yankees the lead. Solid defense from the Rays was able to limit the damage of the inning to those three runs, thankfully.
In the bottom of the third inning the Rays pushed back against Montgomery again, with Yandy Diaz on base, Randy Arozarena hit a two-run blast, putting the Rays back on top 4-3.
The bottom of the fifth saw Austin Meadows once again get plunked by an inside fastball. What’s interesting about this (and it did just look like an inside pitch that missed the mark), was that in spite of earlier warnings to the benches neither the pitcher or anyone else was ejected. Props to both teams, however, for staying civil, as in another situation that second HBP could have resulting in a brawl.
Michael Wacha evened out towards the end of the fourth inning and through the fifth, looking pretty solid by the time he exited the game after the sixth to make way for Cody Reed. Wacha’s final line for the game was 4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, on 68 pitches.
In the seventh inning with one out, Sánchez managed to talk the home plate umpire into a HBP walk on a pitch that was down in the dirt. It didn’t look like he was hit, but also there wasn’t a definitive enough angle to show that he wasn’t hit, so I guess good job on that one, Gary.
Reed imploded pretty quickly after that, I’m sorry to say, giving up a hit to Urshela, then walking Gardner to load the bases. Kevin Cash was quick to make the pull as soon as three batters had been faced, handing the ball to Ryan Thompson. Thompson would face bona fide Rays-killer DJ LeMahieu. A delicious double play, however, ended the inning and the threat with a mere two pitches thrown by Thompson.
Thompson got a bit shakier in the eighth, issuing two walks with only one out. A Torres single did what it needed to, scoring Judge and tying up the game. Thompson gave way to Diego Castillo, who was able to close out the inning without any further runs getting by.
In the top of the ninth, an ugly bobbled infield play off the bat of Urshela managed to roll off to the middle of nowhere was a safe stand up double (and also a pretty uncomfy looking face plant for Willy Adames). Then a long-fought walk to Gardner put two on with... oh no, LeMahieu up next.
LeMahieu hit a perfect liner to third that should have been a double play, but it ended up being one out at third and then a missed catch by Tsutsugo at first, with the error charged to third baseman Padlo. Only one out and two men in scoring position. What happened next was an utterly bonkers play with a wild pitch in the dirt, assuming it would go past Zunino, but Zunino easily caught the ball and a too-far-advanced Gardner was caught in the rundown. Finally a TOOTBLAN that went in the Rays favor.
The inning ended, miraculously, with an out at first base and no runs scored.
Chapman, greeted by a light chorus of boos, came on for the bottom of the ninth. With two outs in the inning Mike Zunino hit an absolute laser of a double, with Kevin Padlo in the wings still waiting to collect his first major league hit. Alas, he wouldn’t get it against Chapman, and we’re onto extras.
Collin McHugh came on for the top of the tenth. With Aaron Judge on as the default runner, McHugh hit Hicks with a pitch that got away from him on the inside of the plate. On a hit to the infield the Rays were able to get the out with Judge running for home. After fighting with Odor for what felt like 100 pitches, Odor won the battle with a well placed outfield hit to score the go-ahead run and give the Yankees the 5-4 lead.
The Yankees weren’t done, however, with Gary Sánchez singling right down the middle to add tet another run, giving the Yankees 6-4 lead. Not ideal. Oh but wait it gets worse. A line drive that skipped over Manuel Margot’s head off Urshela’s bat scored two more runs. 8-4. Gonna be a tough ask to come back from this deficit.
With the Yankees lead extended, Chapman was no longer on the line and Albert Abreu was on for the Yankees. The Rays soon found themselves down to their last chance in the twice-hit Austin Meadows. Meadows hit a fly ball to center to end the game, and they would not get the series sweep, instead needing to settle for two out of three.
Final score Yankees 8, Rays 4.