Yankees’ grit and determination put them in position to take series against Rays

The Yankees' win over the Rays on May 13, 2023, at Yankee Stadium was fueled by Aaron Judge's two home runs, securing a 9-8 victory for the team.

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On May 8, the Rays outfoxed the Yankees with a comeback that erased a six-run lead. Six days later, the same fierce AL East rivalry saw the Yankees staging a big comeback, erasing a six-run deficit to trounce the Rays 9-8.

Anthony Rizzo talked about it on Saturday afternoon while hanging out in the home dugout at Yankee Stadium following the massive victory. He told:

“Just kind of talking about that a little bit. They did it to us, let’s do it to them.’’

The Yankees came all the way back, just like the Rays did against Gerrit Cole last Sunday in Tampa Bay. They did this with the help of Anthony Volpe’s quickness and awareness and Aaron Judge’s timely power, among other things.

Well, the way the Yankees have been battling against the Tampa Bay Rays, who rank at the top now, gives fans a good idea of what they might really be. That is not to say that the Yankees are the best team in the league or even in their division. However, right now they’re giving the best teams in the big leagues all they can. This sends a message that this team is capable to win the series against the Rays.

The determination of the Yankees

Keeping track of the Yankees hasn’t been the simplest baseball assignment this year. Probably because of all the team’s frequent injuries and their strange position in the AL East standings (last place entering Saturday but with a record good enough to lead at least one other division).

With two home runs by Aaron Judge, his first since returning from the injury list, the Yankees staged their second consecutive comeback triumph against the Rays on Saturday, 9-8, in front of 44,714 in the Bronx.

Last week, the Yankees’ best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, was on the field when the Rays came back from being down by six runs to win in Tampa. Shane McClanahan, who may be the best reliever in the majors so far, was given a 6-0 lead on Saturday. But he stumbled, and the Yankees won the game to make their record 23-18.

Anthony Rizzo thought back to how hard the team had to fight during the game. He said that Judge’s first home run made the score 6-4, and the team started to feel like they did last week when Gerrit was pitching and they were making a comeback. Rizzo told his teammates in the dugout that they had been on the other end of a comeback and suggested that they do the same thing to their opponents.

“We were scratching and clawing,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Judgie made it 6-4 (with his first homer) and we just had the feel of last week when they came back on Gerrit. I was kind of talking about that in the dugout – they did it to us, let’s do it to them.”

Even though Judge wouldn’t say it, it might be the Yankees‘ biggest win of the year. The Yankees captain said that it was hard to explain, but the win was a big one. They were especially happy that they beat a tough pitcher who leads the AL in every pitching measure and got him out of the game. Then it was fun to go up against their bullpen, which was full of good pitchers with their own skills. All in all, this victory was a big deal.

“It’s tough to say, but it was a big one,” he said. “Especially going up against a guy that I feel is leading every single category, pitching-wise, in the AL. So to be able to knock him out of the game and then go to work against their bullpen, where every guy is unique and has great stuff…This is a huge win.”

Even more so for a club that has been hit by injuries. Judge just got back, and he’s back to being the same scary guy in the batter’s box. However, big names like Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Carlos Rodon are still out. Sometimes this season, it’s felt like there’s a countdown to when the Yankees will fall apart, whether it’s because they’re fragile or old or because their rotation isn’t as strong after the fifth or sixth spot on some nights.

The Yankees’ confidence is back

Some people still have doubts even after they get started. They played the Rays close in three nail-biters last weekend in St. Petersburg but ended up losing the series. But since then, they swept the A’s, boosting their offense to new heights.

The Yankees showed on Saturday that they can pound opponents with either power or small ball, thanks to the return of Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader to the lineup. Kyle Higashioka sparked the bouncing back with a home run in the fifth inning, and his captain matched him two batters later.

In the sixth inning, Rays reliever Ryan Thompson allowed a run after Anthony Volpe led off with a bunt single, advanced to second and third on steals, then scored on a wild pitch. A few batters later, Judge blasted a 79.4 mph ball from 439 feet to left, scoring two more runs and giving the necessary muscle. He hit the ball with a speed of 113.5 miles per hour. Then, after a successful bunt, Rizzo came around to score on Oswaldo Cabrera’s two-run single.

The Yankees’ victory on Saturday was a great follow-up to Rizzo’s home run on Friday, which ignited a comeback. According to Judge, the team’s turnarounds were the result of a lot of hard work in the locker room. In addition, he stated that they had a lot of fun playing these games. The Yankees loved the chance to face the finest teams because they knew their opponents would always be ready to play their best. The Yankees, however, were resolved to match that commitment and provide 100% every game.

“We got a lot of grinders in this clubhouse, man, and these are some of the funniest games we’ve played. We love facing the best and they’re bringing it every single night and we’re bringing it every single night.

“So it’s just a lot of dirty at-bats, grinding. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Six games played between the Rays and Yankees this season have ended in a tie. Thursday’s 8-2 victory by Tampa Bay was the only game in which the winning margin was greater than one run.

The MLB’s attempt at a more equitable schedule has the unfortunate side effect of reducing the number of Rays-Yankees matchups this season. This has been a top-notch, enjoyable item.

However, the Yankees need to figure out why Nestor Cortes’ ERA skyrockets to 16.55 after the fifth inning because the state of their rotation is so precarious right now. They, though, show signs of determination. They are 8-3 in their previous 11 games and won with a comeback on Saturday for the ninth time. With a victory on Sunday, they would have swept the four-game series against the Rays, something that seemed unlikely early in the season when, as Judge himself concedes, “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted.”

But Judge and Aaron Boone have maintained that the Yankees don’t pay attention to negative predictions about their future. Boone warned against letting emotions take over, saying it might lead to dangerous consequences. He said that the season was long (about 120 games).

He said that the win was a big deal for the team, but it was only a small part of the bigger goal, which was to be there at the end of the season. Even though there had been some setbacks, he thought the team was in a good place, and they would keep adding new people to give them more support. So, he was hopeful about the team’s chances and thought they were headed in the right direction.

And the Yankees are back

Despite the Rays’ ability to shut down Boone’s two greatest starts, the Yankees still managed to win both games. It suggests the offense is strong enough to keep up with defenses. The Yankees have shown that they can compete with the Rays, who are the top team in baseball statistically (.732), statistically (80 home runs), and historically (120 run differential) through 41 games.

Injuries have plagued the Yankees, and their offense has been nonexistent until the last few days, but they still have a chance to win the division. Clay Holmes’ sinker has life again, Giancarlo Stanton’s return is taking shape, and next Sunday may already be set as a firm date for Luis Severino’s return to the rotation.

After the Yankees’ dramatic 9-8 victory in front of 44,714 spectators at the one-quarter mark of the season, Judge said it was one of the most enjoyable games he’s had all year. Unheralded contributions, such as Jimmy Cordero’s five relief outs and his rallying scream, were also crucial.

Judge says that Cordero gave the team a rising cry when they were down 6-0. Because of this, the team was able to make a great comeback and win a very important game. Looking ahead, Judge said that the team’s top goal was to win the next game on Sunday and finish the series. 

New York’s 23-18 record after Saturday’s win is far from where the team hoped it would be after 41 games, but it is a step in the right direction. Early on, the club has been hampered by injuries, including one to Judge, who spent time on the 10-day disabled list with a hip injury.

Both of Judge’s home runs on Saturday were his first since April 19th, when he was injured. He now has eight on the year, tying him for the team lead with Anthony Rizzo. The Yankees fans have been vocal about their discontent with the team’s slow start, but Judge has made it obvious that he and his teammates aren’t listening to them. 

Sunday will be the final game in the four-game series between the Yankees and the Rays, and then from May 15-18, the Yankees will host the Blue Jays for four games with a chance to move into third place in the division at stake.

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