Anthony Rizzo clubbed the game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the New York Yankees swept the Tampa Bay Rays with a 2-1 win on Thursday night.
The game had been tied at one since the sixth inning when Rizzo hit his fifth career walk-off home run. It was his first since July of 2018.
The victory extended the Yankees’ winning streak to seven games and helped them topple a division rival in the process as they get set to travel to Toronto to take on another. Rizzo drove in both Yankee runs on Thursday night, hitting an RBI single in the sixth to knot the game up at one.
“Just a great at-bat by Anthony there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Getting into a good count, leaving some pitches that he should of and then getting into one. Good at-bats all night by him. He smoked that ball his first time up. Just missed one his second time and obviously got the hit to tie it.
“He finished it off there, so great night for him and that’s a good (win) there.”
Thursday was a bit of a bizarre day for the Bombers, who had to change things up a bit after scheduled starter Luis Severino was placed on the COVID list. Boone said after the game that Severino had tested negative for COVID and would travel with the Yankees to Toronto.
But the bullpen got some extra work in on Thursday night with starter Clarke Schmidt going three innings before Boone turned the ball over to Ryan Weber in the fourth inning.
Schmidt, who had been filling in for Severino, allowed one hit and struck out five during his time on the mound. Going into Thursday night, Yankee starters had gone at least six innings in 30 of 62 starts this season, which included 17 of the last 23 games dating back to May 22.
Weber threw 3.2 innings and allowed Tampa Bay’s lone run of the game. The starter had been called up to take Severino’s spot on the roster.
“We had a little bit of information last night that Sevy was kind of feeling down under the weather and that it was going to be a bullpen game,” Schmidt said. “But I had no clue I was starting until probably around 1 or 2 today. It’s hard to prepare for something like that, but it’s kind of just like I just treated it like getting called from the bullpen and just coming in the game.”
Rizzo’s game-winner came on a 2-1 cutter that he sent sailing to right center field and sent the packed stadium home in jubilation. The Yankees are 31 games over .500 after the Rizzo heroics and are 22-10 against AL East opponents.
“Just felt good about taking a free swing and just trusting not doing too much. Luckily it went over,” Rizzo said.
The low-scoring affair in the Bronx saw its first run of the night in the top of the fifth when Francisco Mejia sent a 1-1 sinker over the right field wall to give Tampa the 1-0 lead.
Webber was able to get Taylor Walls to ground out on the next at-bat to end the inning.
After the first two New York batters got out to start the sixth, the Yankees took advantage of a pitching change by the Rays. Reliever Ryan Thompson walked DJ LeMahiu and Aaron Judge to put runners on first and second.
Anthony Rizzo singled on a line drive to center that scored Lemahiu to tie the game at one.
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New York will now head to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays before facing Tampa Bay again next week.