Yankees hold onto lead in 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay

New York Yankees’ Kyle Higashioka is congratulated in the dugout after his three-run homer in the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Wednesday.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The New York Yankees winning ways continued on Wednesday as the Bombers took the second game of the three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3.

A lengthy delay in the top of the eighth inning nearly derailed the Yankees’ night as the umpires held up the game for nearly 17 minutes while they tried to decipher the mound visit rule. Boone had wanted to make a pitching change after Ji-Man Choi had come out to pinch-hit. 

However, the umpires originally said that he couldn’t because pitching coach Matt Blake had just been to the mound after Randy Arozarena had been hit by a pitch. Boone was eventually allowed to bring in Lucas Luetge and the Rays cut it close scoring a pair of runs before the Yankees were finally able to get out of the inning. 

“When Arozarena got hit with the pitch Blake was just going to go out and talk to (Castro),” Boone said. “As he was out there Choi comes out of the dugout and so we know he’s going to hit, so he came back and at first they were saying we couldn’t go back out. Cause once he gets hit that at-bat is in play and you can’t go out twice within the at-bat, well if you announce a pinch hitter you can and he was already out there before they announced that pinch hitter

“That’s what I was just kind of getting and making sure we had a rules check on.” 

Home runs from Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka led the offense while Nestor Cortes and the Yankees bullpen kept the Rays at bay. The Bombers starter went 5.1 innings in the win and allowed just one run on three hits and struck out four. 

The Yankees are 12-1 in their last 13 games and ensured they’d take the series with Tampa Bay regardless of Thursday’s outcome. New York also extended its league-best home record to 28-7 at Yankee Stadium. 

The home runs hit by  Judge and Higashioka were the team’s 99th and 100th of the season, which leads the league. It was Judge’s solo shot in the first inning that helped the Yankee jump on the board early. 

The Yankee slugger sent a 3-2 pitch screaming into right center field in the bottom of the first for his 25th homer of the season and to put the Bombers ahead 1-0. Judge had entered the night with the league lead in home runs, at-bats per home run and slugging percentage. 

The Yankees added three more runs in the third to extend their lead. Josh Donaldson reached base on a fielding error and then with two outs the Rays intentionally walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa. 

That allowed Higashioka to come up to the plate and hit a three-run shot to left field on the second pitch of his at-bat. 

“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Higashioka said. “Luckily I had a chance to drive in some runs and help the team win. I’m glad it happened. … I really wasn’t worked up about (the Rays walking Kiner-Falefa). I knew what I needed to do and I had confidence that I could do it.” 

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Yandy Diaz hit a ground-rule double to open up the sixth inning and Manuel Margot doubled two batters later to drive in Tampa Bay’s first run of the game. The Rays capitalized again after the delay in the eighth as Choi and Rene Pinota each hit a single to score a run and pull their team within one. 

Clay Holmes came into the game in the top of the ninth to close out the game. Holmes has not allowed a run in his last 28 appearances and his 30.0 innings of scoreless ball is a career-best, as well as the best in Major League Baseball. 

“It’s just straight dominance,” Judge said of Holmes’ save. “Every single time he comes out there I feel like the games over. He attacks the strike zone. The movement on all his pitches is unhittable.” 

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