Yankees 2, Rays 1: Rizzo’s walk-off win seals the deal Johnny Wholestaff’s victory

Rays vs Yankees

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Clarke Schmidt, Ryan Weber, and others kept the Rays quiet for the majority of the game, and Rizzo homered to win it.

On Thursday, the Yankees understood that expected pitcher Luis Severino would have to strike the COVID-IL. As a result, they had to start Clarke Schmidt and call up Ryan Weber from Triple-A Scranton to fill Severino’s roster spot, with an appearance highly likely. They also didn’t have Clay Holmes or Wandy Peralta in the bullpen after each reliever pitched in the first two matches of this series. So securing this possible Rays sweep was far from certain.

Although it is only mid-June, fans have already discovered that the 2022 Yankees are working with some sort of magic. Schmidt and Weber were both outstanding, and while the Yankees’ offense only managed four hits against the Rays’ bullpen game committee, Anthony Rizzo provided everything they required. He tied the game in the sixth inning and walked it off in the bottom of the ninth, leading to a 2-1 win and that stunning sweep.

Schmidt did his best for the Yankees despite a limited pitch count. He stayed focused and got through a brief two-out jam in the first to induce a groundout from Randy Arozarena, stranding a runner in scoring position. Schmidt then retired the next six batters in a row to finish his day with no runs and five strikeouts in three innings.

The night served as a good reminder of how fortunate the Yankees are to have Schmidt on their pitching staff. He’d start for almost any other team in the majors, but Aaron Boone gets to keep him in the bullpen. Schmidt was never going to have a high innings count this year after not pitching much in 2020-21, so it’s probably for the best in the long run. He’ll get his chance to shine, and he showed it tonight.

The Rays’ pitching staff also did an excellent job of keeping the Yankees off the board. It would have been difficult for opener Jalen Beeks to outperform himself. He could only go two innings as a reliever, but hell if he wasn’t perfect. Kevin Cash isn’t going to have any notes for him.

Matt Wisler relieved Beeks in the third with a 1-2-3 inning before bringing on Aaron Judge with a one-out walk in the fourth. The Yankees would’ve scored here based on expected batting average, as both Rizzo (.610 xBA) and Giancarlo Stanton (.800 xBA) put a charge into their swings. However, Rizzo’s drive was halted 380 feet away at the right-center-field warning track, and after Judge stole second, Stanton’s 118.8-mph missile sailed right into Vidal Bruján’s glove. Suzyn, that’s baseball.

Weber, fresh from the minor leagues, made his Yankees debut in the fourth inning, replacing Schmidt. Expectations were low for a pitcher who entered 2022 with a 5.28 ERA in 63 games over a seven-year career, so his 3.2-inning effort was perfectly acceptable (and how). The only blemish was Francisco Meja’s 382-foot blast down the right-field line for the game’s first run:

Meja’s bat has some pop, and Weber made a mistake. That’s life. The Yankees were also grateful that Jose Trevino caught Harold Ramirez attempting to steal second just before this pitch; otherwise, it could’ve been a 2-0 deficit.

Despite the Meja blast, Weber got right back to work, retiring the next six batters in a row. He’d recorded 11 crucial outs in this game by the time Boone took the ball from him with two down in the seventh. The Yankees essentially got a fantastic Severino outing from Schmidt and Weber: 6.2 innings of one-run ball with only three hits and a single walk allowed (plus six strikeouts). Congratulations to both of them.

The Yankees’ offense remained quiet against the Rays’ rotating relievers, but they did absolve Weber of the Meja blast. Ryan Thompson proved to be the weakest link in Cash’s bullpen game strategy, as he had nothing. When Thompson entered the sixth inning with two outs and none on, he gave DJ LeMahieu and Judge back-to-back free passes. That set the stage for Rizzo to not squander another RBI chance:

With the three-batter minimum met, Cash struck out Thompson and replaced him with Jason Adam, who grounded out to end the inning. Two more runners were left on base, but Rizzo’s RBI single brought the game to a close.

Through the ninth inning, Ron Marinaccio and Michael King kept the Rays off the board — heck, off the hit column — and Rizzo had another chance to provide a key hit. Shawn Armstrong threw a 96-mph sinker that caught far too much of the zone, and the three-time All-Star pounced:

Rizzo has been a quietly outstanding signing for the 2022 season. I thought he’d be fine, but 16 home runs and a 128 wRC+ in 62 games while making numerous error-saving picks at first base? That’s a valuable member of your team.

The Yankees are now 47-16 and have a 12-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. They’ve won seven straight (including 14 straight at home) and will face another division rival tomorrow night. They’ll travel north to face the second-place Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, where Jordan Montgomery will face Ross Stripling. First pitch is at 7:07 p.m. ET.

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