BRONX, NY — There are the Tampa Bay Rays with the best record in baseball, six players with 20 RBI, nine players with six or more home runs, and the only Major League team with two players in double digits with extra base hits.
Then there are the Yankees. They have been struggling to score runs the past three weeks as the Rays continue to pitch well and score runs. They are the baseball team to beat and lead by a wide margin in the AL East standings.
But the Yankees have their share of an offense that is returning. Pitching, though, that’s another factor that has contributed to their last pace standing in the division.
Friday night in the Bronx, before a capacity crowd of 46,130, the Yankees would not submit to the Rays, even though the division lead is still possible with a long way to go. But this is baseball and right now the Rays appear to be a team that won’t let up.
Anthony Rizzo homered twice, Anthony Volpe hit a game-tying home in the fifth and a go-ahead RBI in the seventh, the bullpen struggled but came through after ace Gerrit Cole did not record a decision after five innings.
The Yankees Friday night looked like the team to beat taking the second of a four-game series, 6-5. The Rays though, are not expected to play at their .750 winning pace on a daily basis, but all of baseball has paid attention to their ability of winning ball games.”
“He’s just been a great presence in the middle of our roster and really consistent,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone about Rizzo who has hit in 13-of-his last 16 games.
“Like he usually always does,”Boone added about Rizzo and his consistency. “Big hits come with him.”
And if Rizzo can keep this consistency, if Aaron Judge can hit at the home run pace as he did last year, setting a AL record 62 home runs, others struggling in the Yankees offense will get a pass. Rizzo, though, has been that good.
The Rays could not contain him as manager Kevin Cash opted to go with a bullpen game, four pitchers that allowed Rizzo and Volpe to provide the Yankees with their offense that got a playoff atmosphere crowd asking for curtain calls.
Oswaldo Cabrera (Guarenas, Venezuela), struggling at the bottom of the Yankees batting order, had a run-scoring single in the seventh inning at the time extending the Yankees lead to 4-2.
But for this one night, the Rays were contained. Despite Randy Arozarena (Havana, Cuba) hitting a first inning four-seam fastball and home run off Cole in the first, and José Siri (Sabana, Dominican Republic) hitting one in the second, the Rays could not make another of their ninth inning comebacks they are known for.
Arozarena had two hits including his 10th home run of the season.
This night, though, the Yankees made the comeback possible, their known tendency of hitting home runs to right.
”It was a pretty exciting ballgame,” Cash said. “We came up short. A lot to like, just frustrated we came up short.”
Then again, Cash and the entire baseball world can’t expect the Rays to win every ballgame, even though this was a game that appeared to be won.
Saturday afternoon is that short turn-around, a day game in the Bronx. The Rays expect to win another ballgame. The Yankees are riding with confidence after this win.
I think this division is really good for the game right now,” Rizzo said. “It’s a dogfight every night. I feel like as this season goes on, none of these teams in the division will back down, that’s for sure.”
He is right about that. But it’s totally up to the Yankees to keep their end of the bargain and gain momentum off this win.
Rich Mancuso Co-Editor and Senior Writer LatinoSports.com
Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso.
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