The Tampa Bay Rays knotted their American League Division Series with the New York Yankees at one game apiece after winning 7-5 on Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego.
Tampa Bay used home runs from Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, Mike Zunino and Austin Meadows, along with a Kevin Kiermaier RBI single, for its seven runs.
Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton launched a solo home run in the first and a fourth-inning three-run bomb that went 458 feet to left-center field. Tyler Glasnow let up both of those homers, but he was largely stellar otherwise with 10 strikeouts in five innings, good enough for the win.
The Yanks got the winning run to the plate in the top of the ninth with two out and runners on the corners, but outfielder Aaron Judge grounded out to third to end a game that featured 18 Tampa Bay strikeouts of Yankee batters.
The Rays have now beaten the Yankees nine of 12 times, including the regular season. New York beat Tampa Bay 9-3 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Yankees SP Deivi Garcia: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER
Yankees RP J.A. Happ: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Yankees OF Giancarlo Stanton: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Rays SP Tyler Glasnow: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
Rays OF Randy Arozarena: 2-for-4, HR, R, RBI
Rays OF Austin Meadows: 1-for-4, HR, R, BB, RBI
Rays C Mike Zunino: 1-for-4, HR, R, 2 RBI
Rays OF Manuel Margot: 1-for-2, HR, R, 2 RBI
Rays Beat Yankees at Their Own Game
The Yankees' success is predicated on the long ball. They featured the league's 2020 home run king in first baseman Luke Voit and smacked 94 as a team, good enough for second in the American League despite missing Stanton and Judge for 69 combined games because of injuries.
The Yanks launched four homers in Game 1, including a Stanton ninth-inning grand slam that put the game away. Stanton kept it going in Game 2 with a pair of homers, but the rest of the Yanks couldn't follow suit as they failed to manufacture runs (save for DJ LeMahieu's ninth-inning single) outside of Stanton's moon shots.
However, the Rays ripped a page out of the Yankees' book on Tuesday, hitting four home runs and staying a step ahead of their AL East rivals.
Arozarena got it going with a solo homer in the first:
Zunino got in on the act in the third to put Tampa Bay up 3-1 on a two-run shot:
Margot tacked on another pair with a homer of his own:
Meadows finished the Rays' scoring with a solo home run in the sixth:
Tampa won the home run battle, but the Rays also had much better at-bats otherwise. Tampa struck out just six times and managed eight hits while the Yankees were punched out 18 times and had just five hits off two Stanton home runs and three singles.
That's what ultimately led to a much-needed Game 2 victory for the Rays, who beat the Yanks at their own game.
Yankees Try, and Fail, to Beat Rays at Their Own Game
The Rays introduced the concept of the "opener" on May 19, 2018, in a 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels when longtime closer and reliever Sergio Romo started and pitched just one scoreless inning before handing the ball off to long reliever Ryan Yarbrough, who ate up innings in the middle of the game to help build a bridge to the back end of the Rays bullpen.
The concept of patching together bullpen games starting with a reliever on the mound in the first has spread throughout the league, and the Yankees decided to go that route Tuesday.
Deivi Garcia, the Yanks' 21-year-old starter, pitched just one frame, allowing Arozarena's homer. Manager Aaron Boone then opted to go with left-hander J.A. Happ to work as a long reliever, but that backfired as the southpaw allowed four earned runs in 2.2 innings.
Boone explained the rationale for his decision, citing the Rays' lineup flexibility:
The Yanks faced pitching problems heading into Game 2. The Rays were throwing out one of their two aces in strikeout artist Tyler Glasnow, who punched out 10 Yankees on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have starting rotation questions without an injured James Paxton, a struggling Masahiro Tanaka (eight earned runs over his last two starts), a rookie (albeit a very promising one) in Garcia and a left-hander in Jordan Montgomery who had a 5.11 ERA in 10 starts.
Happ did well (3.47 ERA in nine starts), and his number was called upon as a long reliever. But it didn't work out as Happ had his worst outing of the season.
For his part, Happ didn't seem as though he was totally onboard with the idea, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com and Marc Carig of The Athletic:
Yankees television play-by-play announcer Michael Kay wasn't either, and he explained why:
It's admittedly easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and lament a strategy that ultimately ended with poor results, but the decision ultimately put the Yanks in a hole that they could not dig themselves out of before it was too late.
Game 3 will occur Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET, and Game 4 will take place Thursday at the same time. The Yanks will send out Masahiro Tanaka, and the Rays will put Charlie Morton on the hill.