Unlikely heroes power Yankees past Rays in thrilling contest, earn narrow yet big win

Yankees lefty reliever Tim Hill stranded the bases loaded in the fifth inning, replacing starter Marcus Stroman and earning the win
AP
Michael Bennington
Thursday July 11, 2024

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The New York Yankees clinched a pivotal 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night, marking only their seventh victory in 24 games. Outfielder Trent Grisham underscored the importance of this hard-fought triumph, emphasizing its potential to positively influence the team moving forward.

“I think it’s big to win a game like that,” he said. “Really nitty gritty. Just well fought the whole way and close the whole way. For our pitchers to come up big in all those situations, that’s gonna do a lot for us going forward.”

The Yankees’ bullpen, which had been struggling with the fifth-highest ERA (5.10) in baseball since June 15, delivered a standout performance. After starter Marcus Stroman exited in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one run already allowed, the relief pitchers faced a daunting challenge to preserve the narrow lead.

The bullpen quartet of Tim Hill, Luke Weaver, Tommy Kahnle, and Clay Holmes rose to the occasion, combining 5 ²/₃ scoreless innings and stranding 12 Rays runners. Their efforts secured the final 14 outs without conceding any runs, a remarkable feat given the bullpen’s recent difficulties and the offense’s failure to provide additional insurance runs.

Grisham described the victory as “nitty-gritty” and well-fought, suggesting it could be a turning point for the Yankees amid their worst stretch of the season. The team’s ability to close out a tight game against a division rival may bolster their confidence as they aim to improve their standing in the upcoming games.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone lauded his team’s resilience in their tight 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, comparing their performance to a “bend-but-don’t-break” defense. Boone emphasized the importance of the win amid the team’s recent struggles, praising the players for stepping up in crucial moments.

“That was the ultimate bend-but-don’t-break, playing the nickel defense on them there,” the Yankees manager said. “Just a great job, a lot of big moments in that game. Especially with what we’re going through, guys just coming through over and over again. … Big day for Grish on both sides of the ball. That one feels really good.”

Yankees' Soto, Verdugo and Grisham celebrate the win over the Rays at Tropicana on July 10, 2024.
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Yankees’ bullpen refuses to balk

Boone singled out relief pitcher Tim Hill for his pivotal role. Hill was called upon in a high-stakes lefty-lefty matchup against Josh Lowe and delivered a flawless three-pitch strikeout, followed by a flyout from Randy Arozarena to escape the jam.

The Yankees skipper described Hill’s efforts as “bulldogging” through the inning, highlighting the precision of his pitches against Lowe and the fortunate result of Arozarena’s well-hit ball.

“It was great,” he said. “Came in and kind of just bulldogged it. Really carved up Lowe there with three straight pitches. Looked like he dotted them. Gives up some solid contact to Arozarena but right to Soto. It was a great job of one of the many big moments in the game tonight.”

Hill faced further challenges in the sixth inning, allowing two singles before striking out former Yankee Ben Rortvedt. Boone’s remarks underscored the high-pressure scenarios throughout the game and the team’s successful navigation of these situations. He sees this win as a potential turning point for the struggling Yankees.

Yankees pitcher Marcus Stroman highlighted the critical impact of Tim Hill’s performance in a decisive moment of their 2-1 victory over the Rays, noting it could have shifted the game’s outcome.

“It was huge,” he explained. “That’s one of those moments in the game where it could go either way. For him to come in and get the [strikeout] and the out, that’s incredible.”

Manager Aaron Boone’s strategic move to bring in Luke Weaver during a key situation paid off. Weaver induced a double play on his first pitch to end the inning, then navigated through a tough seventh inning, retiring key Rays batters despite issuing two walks.

The Rays maintained constant pressure, putting runners on base in four consecutive innings. However, the Yankees’ bullpen, featuring Tommy Kahnle and Clay Holmes, skillfully escaped each threat. Outfielder Trent Grisham made a crucial running catch in right-center field in the eighth inning to preserve the lead, a play Boone praised for Grisham’s quick reaction and positioning.

The Rays’ struggles were evident in their 0-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position, leaving 12 runners stranded. Holmes sealed the game with a clean ninth inning, securing his 20th save of the season and his first since June 9.

Stroman acknowledged the team’s recent struggles but highlighted the players’ unwavering work ethic and confidence. He described the win as a complete team effort, particularly commending the bullpen’s performance.

“It’s definitely been a rough stretch,” the Yankees starting pitcher said. “I think we’re all aware of that. But the work ethic from every guy, the confidence hasn’t changed one bit. It’s just one of those spurts. It’s a long season. We play 162 games, so we’re going to go on skids like this. But definitely glad to get the win. It was a full-team effort tonight. The bullpen was incredible.”

This victory, marked by resilient pitching and timely defensive plays, could serve as a turning point for the Yankees as they aim to overcome their recent slump. The team’s ability to secure a close win against a divisional rival showcases their potential to compete at a high level despite recent challenges.

Yankees' Trent Grisham against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.
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Grisham leads Yankees to fight back

Yankees manager Aaron Boone shook up the lineup, positioning Alex Verdugo in the leadoff spot and Ben Rice in the cleanup. However, it was Trent Grisham, batting seventh, who ignited the offense against Rays pitcher Zach Eflin.

Grisham delivered both of the Yankees’ runs. He first hit an RBI double, narrowly missing a home run, which allowed Anthony Volpe to score from first base in the second inning. Later, he added a sacrifice fly, bringing home Gleyber Torres, who had advanced to third on a throwing error by Yandy Díaz.

Grisham also made a critical defensive play, executing a running catch in the outfield.

The game featured a notable moment from Juan Soto, who went 2-for-4 and broke the team’s 21-game streak without a stolen base by swiping a second in the eighth inning.

These key performances underscored the Yankees’ victory, highlighting the effectiveness of Boone’s lineup adjustments and the significant contributions of individual players.

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