Game 85: LeMahieu, Sanchez pick up Chapman in Tampa

El Gary (Screenshot)

Aroldis Chapman blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning, but DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez and the Yankees’ offense picked him up to earn an 8-4 victory over the Rays in 10 innings.

This game featured #GoodHapp, the hitting stylings of Ford & Tauchman and a massive Gary dinger.

Let’s get to some takeaways, going backwards.

1. The Yankees offense can go from quiet to loud in an instant

After a relatively quiet first nine innings, the Yankees struck like lightning in the 10th inning and it all started with Gio Urshela and Aaron Judge, who began the day on the bench.

The duo was scheduled for days off, but duty called late after the Rays tied it (Urshela came in for defensive reasons, but still). Both worked walks against Oliver Drake, including a 10-pitch nail-biter for Judge. Brett Gardner got a bunch down on his second try … and the Rays let it go for a hit. Third baseman Yandy Diaz went back to third when he was supposed to charge the ball.

Tampa then called upon Emilio Pagan, one of their top relievers, against DJ LeMahieu with the bases loaded. The Machine hit a soft grounder, which was enough to get through against a drawn-in infield. Two runs score, Yankees lead again, boom!

But that was not all. Gary Sanchez came up with second and third, one out, and absolutely blasted the first pitch he saw into the second deck. 113.7 mph, 461 feet, just a gargantuan dinger for El Gary, his 24th of the year.

The Yankees had three runs in regulation — more on that towards the bottom — and they just turned it on like so in the 10th. It’s wild how they punish good and bad relievers and everything in between. This lineup is special.

2. Oh no, Chappie!

The Yankees’ bullpen was swimming along fine at the Trop for 2 2/3 innings before Chapman came in. Adam Ottavino got two outs, Tommy Kahnle pitched a perfect frame and Zack Britton worked around a rocketed double to keep the Rays off the board.

Then Chapman had one of his few stinkers. Nothing was working. He just didn’t have command of his fastball or slider, issuing a walk on four pitches to start the ninth. After a quick strikeout, he allowed a double to Joey Wendle that scored a run … or did it? Nate Lowe appeared to miss the plate on his slide before being tagged out, but the Yankees’ challenged didn’t overturn the call.

With two outs, Chapman threw two wild pitches. Though many wild pitches can be blamed on Gary Sanchez, he can’t be at fault for Chapman jerking an upper-90s fastball into the dirt/turf.

The southpaw loaded the bases on two singles and another four-pitch walk, but rebounded to strikeout Austin Meadows. Phew. It could have been a walk-off Rays loss and a spoiled Happ start, but Chapman at least gave the offense the chance to win it. He still has just one loss this year.

3. Happ can be OK outside of Yankee Stadium

The last time Yankee fans saw J.A. Happ on the mound, he was giving up eight runs to the Astros and getting booed off the mound on Old Timers’ Day. It was not what you want.

After a nearly two-week break, Happ looked decent! No fooling! The left-hander allowed a single to Tommy Pham followed by a scorching double to Avisail Garcia in the first inning, handing Tampa a 1-0 lead. After that, nothing, eventually handing a 2-1 lead to the bullpen.

He did give up some hard hit balls, with four lineouts, though they were right at fielders. That might make you think, “Oh, so he was just lucky.” Have to disagree. While the Yankees were properly positioned behind him, he held Tampa Bay in check. His fastball command was better and the Rays averaged 85.4 mph on balls in play, which is below average.

This is about as good as it gets with Happ. He isn’t going to give the team much length — Aaron Boone removed him before he could face Garcia a third time — but when he limits damage and isn’t a turnstyle for home runs, he can have an effective afternoon.

4. You don’t need the ‘A’ lineup to win … and Leftovers

  • The Yankees’ first two runs came from Mikes Ford and Tauchman producing singles off Yonny Chirinos. The right-hander had his hard sinker going — It’s great to watch him at the Trop because the TV angle shows you how much the sinker moves left-to-right — but the duo made hay against his splitter and sinker to put the Yankees on the board.
  • Aaron Hicks’ RBI double was unusual for him. Just reached out and pulled a splitter down the right field line and through the shift. Lucky hit, but you take it. Funny enough, he bat-flipped his walk much more than his go-ahead hit.
  • Walk the Parrot! Edwin Encarnacion extended the Yankees’ lead on a seventh-inning home run (here’s the video). He really set it up in his 10-pitch AB in the fourth, which made me surprised that Chirinos got to face him another time.
  • Randy mentioned this yesterday, but the Yankees’ defense was on point. They were positioned well by the analytics staff, but they also just made all the plays until the 10th, which Urshela and Didi butchered a grounder.
  • Meanwhile, Luis Cessa couldn’t get three outs with a five-run lead against the bottom of Tampa’s order in the 10th. That’s not great. He got swings and misses on his slider — two swinging strikeouts to boot — but issued two walks in a situation where you can’t walk guys. David Hale got the save with a groundout, but Cessa has to get the job done there.

The Yankees now lead Tampa Bay by 7.5 games, nine in the loss column. The magic number to win the AL East is now 69. The two teams resume their four-game set with Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.74 ERA) facing rookie left-hander Brendan McKay (1-0, 0.00) at 7:10 p.m. on Friday night.


Game 85: Four games until the break


DoTF: Volpe hits first homer; Charleston stages comeback


  1. Contra

    “The magic number to win the AL East is now 69.”


  2. dasit

    gary has become a master of the bat flip

  3. Wire Fan

    Really nice job by Chapman and the offense rebounding. Could have easily been a walk off walk or WP, or the offense going to sleep in extras, but they kept grinding.

    It’s time for Cessa to go. The defense didn’t help him, but two walks with a 5 (and then a 4) run lead… Both on 3-2 offspeed pitches? Let them try to blast a fastball 450ft – even if they do, it is really no different than a walk. He has a good slider but not great command of it, which is why he is so inconsistent. And he clearly has no faith in his fastball. If he figures things out elsewhere, so be it.

    When the only reason a guy is on the roster is because he is out of options, it is probably time to move on. Cortes and Hale can fill the long man responsibilities.

    • RetroRob

      I had the same issues with Cessa. He’d get ahead and then started trying to throw breaking pitches that the Rays were not offering at. Then he’d fall back to 3-2 and then throw a pitch off the plate. With a five run lead, just air it out down the middle.

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