Best win of the season last night? If not, top 3 at the absolute worst. Things weren't looking good for the Yankees heading into the late innings, but then Slade Heathcott bopped a 3-run home run in the top of the 9th to rip the game away from the Rays and hopefully breathe new life into the Yankees' final 20-game stretch run.
The Yankees had faced Tampa starter Erasmo Ramirez twice before last night's game and both times he held them at bay, allowing only 1 run in 11 innings pitched. He bested that and the some last night, twirling 7.2 scoreless, 1-hit innings and holding the Yankee lineup without a hit until that final 8th inning. He did walk 2 batters, but only 1 of them reached second base and was then double off to end the inning. Ramirez retired 21 of the first 23 batters he faced going into the 8th and gave up his first hit of the game to Carlos Beltran to lead off that inning. He left with Beltran aboard, but his relievers picked him up then to line him up for a potential 1-0 win.
That would be victory margin was slim thanks to a vintage performance by New York starter CC Sabathia. Making his second start since coming off the DL, Sabathia looked stronger and better than he did in his last start and tossed 6.2 scoreless innings to match Ramirez. His only real trouble inning was the bottom of the 2nd, when he loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Other than that, he was incredible. All 3 of Tampa's hits off him were dinky ground balls, he struck out 6, and got 15 swinging strikes. Just a fantastic start by CC on a night when his teammates desperately needed one.
All his hard work seemingly went for naught in the 8th when Joe elected to stick with Justin Wilson rather than go to Dellin Betances in a situation that called for Betances. Wilson gave up a 1-out single, then struck out Evan Longoria for the second out. This brought up Logan Forsythe, who took 2 fastballs for balls and smacked the third for a go-ahead double to left. Tampa had their one run, Ramirez would have his win, and the Yankees would fall further behind the Blue Jays in the division race.
Until the 9th inning fireworks show happened. It almost got snuffed out before it could begin when Dustin Ackely singled and got immediately erased by Jacoby Ellsbury's first pitch-swinging ground ball double play. But Tampa closer Brad Boxberger walked Brett Gardner with 2 outs, watched Gardner steal second base to put himself in scoring position, and gave up a game-tying double to Alex Rodriguez. Suddenly there was life for the Yankees again. Boxberger intentionally walked Brian McCann to pitch to Heathcott, who was making his first MLB plate appearance since late May. Boxberger threw him a fastball on the outer half for what would have been strike 1, but Heathcott didn't take the pitch. He swung and drove it out the other way to left, all the way over the wall for a 3-run home run. The reaction on the bench said it all. Huge spot, huge hit, huge moment for Heathcott, huge win for the team.
- Final footnote to that, Andrew Miller closing it out with a 14-pitch bottom of the 9th in which he struck out the side. Guy is as dominant as he's been all year.
- Shout out to Caleb Cotham for getting the final out of the 8th when Wilson got into trouble. He was the last guy I would have expected to see in that spot and he came up big.
- What do you say about Ellsbury at this point? 0-4, the big GIDP, down to .254/.315/.354 on the season. He's been atrocious lately and there's absolutely no reason he should still be hitting leadoff.
- It got quickly overshadowed by Heathcott's heroics, but that's another big hit for A-Rod. Even when he's been slumping, he's been coming up with really clutch hits all year.
- Awesome moment for Heathcott. If he can manage to stay healthy for the next 2 weeks, I wouldn't mind seeing him get a few more ABs.
- Toronto was off last night so this game pulled the Yankees back within 3 games of them for the division lead. Wild Card is a more realistic goal, but 19 games is a lotta time.