Sunday October 11, 2020
No-Name Rays Topple Big-Name Yanks
Read the body language: Chapman: Uh oh; Brosseau: Oh, yeah.
And here endeth the lesson. And the Yankees' season.
And the Tampa Bay Rays have joined the pantheon!
I don't have cable, because Comcast, and I don't subscribe to MLB TV because it's not user-friendly and doesn't allow you to watch your home team. So in normal years I usually go to my local bar, Quarter Lounge, and watch postseason games there. It's a fun crowd. Well, this isn't a normal year, and if Covid hadn't ended the Quarter Lounge then redevelopment already would have. It was scheduled to go under the wrecking ball in August. Not sure when I was last at the QL. February? I left not knowing I would never be back.
Long way of saying I “watched” the do-or-die Game 5 of the ALDS between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees via ESPN.com's play-by-play gamecast. I expected to watch just a little of it, but I was editing copy, and it was a good background image, and oddly riveting. The Yankees' $324 million pitcher, Gerrit Cole, aquired in the off-season, started on three-days rest for the first time in his career and seemed to be flubbing it. In the first innning he scattered two walks and a HBP to load the basess but got out of the jam. Still I was looking at his pitch count—something like 26 pitches that inning—and was hoping for a quick exit. But he settled down. Bottom of the second, he struck out the side. Bottom third, 2 Ks and a popout. You went back to the first and realized nobody had hit the ball out of the infield yet. That wouldn't happen until the bottom of the fourth, which would've been another 1-2-3 inning save an E-6. So he still had the no-hitter going.
Meanwhile, in the top of the fourth, Aaron Judge sliced a leadoff homer to right. 1-0, Yanks.
The Rays answered in the bottom of the fifth: Austin Meadows hit one to right, Judge had a bead on it, leaped, and crashed his head into padding that was overhanging the wall. Home run! I'm no Yankees fan, by any means, but the overhang thing seems way stupid. Guys have been leaping and bringing back homeruns forever, and it's a great highlight, and this impedes that. It's dangerous. I hope the Judge is OK.
But that made it 1-1. Rays kept using pitchers for two, two-plus innings. Their no-name squad. Someone really needs to do a “Moneyball” on the Rays org. Year after year, with no money and barely a fan base, they compete and thrive. Would love to see how they do it. (Here's the beginning of an answer from Eno Harris at The Athletic.)
In the sixth, Yankees got two on but didn't score. In the sixth, Rays chased Cole and got two on and didn't score. Just one baserunner in the seventh (Mike Zunino, E-5) for both teams. Top of the eighth, Judge walked but didn't move. And that set up the bottom of the eighth.
With one out, while Mike Brosseau battled Aroldis Chapman, I thought, idly, hopefully, “Hey, a run here and the Yanks will be three outs from the end of their season. Wouldn't that be great?” Brosseau wasn't even a starter. He's 26, this is his second year in the Majors, and he's had fewer than 250 plate appearances career. I guess he's brought in to face lefties. He's got exactly as many plate appearances against lefties as righties (120 for each) but his OPS against lefties is higher by 200 points. He's got 11 career homers—eight against lefities.
Chapman is a lefty.
If Brosseau was known for anything it was a Chapman incident last month. The Yankees had been losing to the Rays all year, but they had a 5-3 lead with two outs in the ninth on Sept. 1 when Chapman threw a 101-mph at Brosseau's head. Yes, at his head. It was a punk move, and when Brosseau struck out to end the game, apparently the Yanks engaged in some trash talking—another punk move—and benches cleared. It wasn't the beginning of the bad blood but it was a nasty part of it.
So that was the background; that was the history. Friday, Chapman got him 0-2 quickly, then Brosseau worked it to a 3-2 count, and kept battling. Here's the full at-bat, the 10-pitch at-bat. Chapman was battling, too. Only one of the balls was obviously a ball. The others were just off the plate. A worse umpire might've called them strikes. But Brosseau worked it and worked it and worked it. And on the 10th pitch he went deep. As longtime Yankee left-fielder Brett Gardner positioned himself to grab it if it bounced off the wall, it landed and rattled around about two rows deep in the empty Covid-era seats. If I'd been at the QL, I would've been going crazy. I would've been high-fiving guys. Instead, I just walked into the living room, where Patricia was watching one of her shows, and said, with a stupid smile on my face, “The Rays are ahead.”
But still the ninth. The middle of that lineup. Giancarlo Stanton, who's had, what, six homers this postseason, led off, and reliever Diego Castillo started out 2-0. Yikes. Then three straight strikes. All looking. Shades of Carlos Beltran. Next up, Luke Voit, who led the Majors in homers this year. K inserted, as a famous, departed announcer once said. That left Yanks 3B Gio Ursella, who'd had a good season and a bad postseason. And he didn't throw away his shot. First pitch, he rifled it toward left field—but 3B Joey Wendle leaned to his right and speared it. And the celebrations began. These kids deserve more. They deserve crowds. Maybe next year.
Biut now we can add the Rays to the pantheon of teams that have knocked out the mighty New York Yankees and helped us all sleep a little better. Since 2001:
- D-Backs, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox, Angels (2)
- Tigers, Indians, n/a, 27, Rangers
- Tigers (2), Tigers (3), n/a, n/a, Astros
- n/a, Astros (2), Red Sox (2), Astros (3), Rays
Welcome to the party, pals. Carey, start spreading the news.