The American League Divisional Series is here. The New York Yankees head to the neutral site in San Diego, California to face their in-division AL East rival Tampa Bay Rays for a trip to the ALCS. In the regular season, Tampa Bay owned New York as they led the season series 8-2. In this elimination playoff series, the keys for New York to swing the tides will be the pitching. We all know the offense is more than capable of putting ugly numbers on the board, but if the pitching staff can withstand the best team in the American League, they’ll have no issue taking down the Rays.
Game 1 Final: Yankees 9, Rays 3
Probables: NYY – Gerrit Cole (7-4, 2.84 ERA) / TB – Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA)
Win / Loss / Save: WP, NYY Cole (1-0) / LP, TB Snell (0-1)
A new series and a new chapter in the Yankees 2020 season has begun. From the first pitch to the final out, Game 1 was filled with action and excitement. Needing a kick-starting win, Manager Aaron Boone started ace Gerrit Cole to the mound. Cole, to no surprise, dominated the Tampa Bay lineup. Pushing the Yankees through 6 Innings on the rubber, Cole took down the Tampa Bay lineup with his electric fastball that reached north of 98 MPH. Striking out eight while allowing six hits and three earned runs is how Cole walked off the mound in his Game 1 performance. The ace of New York’s starting rotation is the first Yankee with 8 strikeouts in back-to-back playoff games since Roger Clemons in 2001, per Katie Sharp.
The New York Yankees’ offense played old-fashioned “small-ball” to score their inaugural run in the series. DJ LeMahieu, of course, began the ALDS with a single up the middle against Rays’ starter Blake Snell. With LeMahieu at first, he was able to make it to third and eventually crossed home from a wild pitch, a ground ball and a sac-fly from Aaron Hicks. Just like that, the Bombers struck early and held a one-run lead. The Tampa Bay offense countered with a run of their own to even the ballgame. Though for the Yankees, the 3rd, Clint Frazier capitalized on a pitch in the zone with a leadoff home run to left.
The Rays would not hold back the offensive efforts as Ji-Man Choi got to Cole, again, with a two-run shot to push Tampa in the lead in the 4th. Countering and not going down without a fight, the Yankees would score a few more to swing the tides. Kyle Higashioka came through in the 5th with a solo shot to tie the game at 3. With this, Frazier and Higashioka lead the Yankees to become the 1st team in MLB history to have the 8 and 9-hole hitters hit a home run in the same postseason game. After Higashioka, Aaron Judge knocked a line drive home-run over the left-field fence to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. This was Judge’s 10th home run in his 30th career playoff game, tying for the most in franchise history with Lou Gehrig, per James Smyth.
Holding a late one-run lead, the job wasn’t done yet. Aaron Hicks added an insurance run with an RBI single in the 9th and of course, the big blow would come from Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton crushed a GRAND SLAM in the 9th to secure the win and allow Aroldis Chapman to record the save. This was Stanton’s third home run in as many games and marks the Yankees’ 14th postseason grand-slam in team history.
The series is far from over as the Yankees hold a 1-0 series lead. Final in Game 1: Yankees 9, Rays 3.
Player of the Game: DH Giancarlo Stanton: 1-4, Grand Slam, BB, 4 RBI
Game 2 Final: Yankees 5, Rays 7
Probables: NYY – Deivi Garcia (3-2, 4.98 ERA) / TB – Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08 ERA)
Win / Loss / Save: WP, TB Glasnow (1-0) / LP, NYY Happ (0-1) / SV, TB Fairbanks (1)
Making his first postseason start, Rookie Deivi Garcia took the mound for the Yankees in hopes to extend their series lead. Pitching well with no trouble, Garcia was pulled after the first inning. With this bold and unorthodox move, many fans questioned this decision on behalf of Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman. With this move in effect, starter J.A Happ was asked to throw a clean portion in the remainder of the game. When you try to get ‘fancy’ and outsmart the Tampa Bay Rays, it never ends well. The bold move potentially cost New York the game. Allowing four runs and three walks in 2.2 IP, the game plan didn’t work out. If Garcia would have gone 3-4 innings, yes, this move would have made sense. The Yankees were trying to play outside their comfort zone. Bad, bad move.
The only bright spot in Game 2 for NYY was from Giancarlo Stanton. Continuing his abysmal domination at the plate, Stanton connected on a solo home run in the 2nd and a three-run moonshot in the 4th. New York’s cleanup hitter becomes the first Ynkee to homer in three straight postseason at bats since Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series. At the time, the mid-inning three-run home run felt like hope from the Yankees but in the end, was a dead match. The final Yankee run came from DJ LeMahieu with an RBI single.
Don’t play chess. Play Yankees baseball. Simple as can be. Final in Game 2: Tampa Bay 7, New York 5.
Player of the Game: DH Giancarlo Stanton: 4-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
Game 3 Final: Rays 8, Yankees 4
Probables: TB – Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.74 ERA) / NYY – Masahiro Tanaka (3-3, 3.58 ERA)
Win / Loss / Save: WP, TB Morton (1-0) / LP, NYY Tanaka (0-1)
With eyes targeting towards a win, the Yankees put up a disappointing and empty all-around effort. When the Yankees needed Tanaka the most, he failed to show up. The issue is not the hitting nor the management, it’s the pitching. Besides ace Gerrit Cole and flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, the Bombers do not have arms to last the duration of the game. Plain and simple. Masahiro Tanaka, in presumably his last start in Pinstripes, lasted 4.0 IP and allowed 8 H, 5 ER, BB and 4 K. This is not the ideal page to end on, but man, seven years have gone by quick. Thank You, Masa.
Besides a few hot spots, the Yankee offense was weak. Aaron Judge knocked in a sac-fly, Hicks scored one with an RBI double and Giancarlo Stanton connected on his 6th home run in 5 playoff games. Other than the Stanton homer, the Rays seemed to run up the score against the Yankees pitching staff.
Yikes. Final: Rays 8, Yankees 4.
Player of the Game: DH Giancarlo Stanton: 2 RBI, R
Game 4 Final: Rays 1, Yankees 5
Probables: TB – Ryan Thompson (1-2, 4.44 ERA) / NYY – Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 5.11 ERA)
Win / Loss / Save: WP, NYY Green (1-0) / LP, TB Thompson (0-1) / SV, NYY Chapman (1)
Jordan Montgomery. Ice in his veins. When the team needed him the most to stay alive, he got the job done and even more. Besides Monty’s impressive outing, the bats were hot all game and backed up the performance on the mound. Forcing a game five, Montgomery dazzled Tampa Bay’s lineup through 4.0 innings. Although running into some trouble along the way, it wasn’t too bad as he ended the night with 3 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K. You can’t ask anything more from Jordan Montgomery.
In a five-run offensive outing, Luke Voit got out of his mini-postseason slump by crushing a second-deck solo home run in the 2nd inning. In the same inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs, but unfortunately all they could manage was a one-run sac-fly from DJ LeMahieu. 2-0 New York, after two. Trading goose eggs through the middle innings, Gleyber Torres added insurance runs with a two-run moonshot off the Wester Metal Supply Co. wear-house in left to push the Yankees to a 4-1 lead. Higashioka added one more off an RBI single in the 8th to finalize the damage. The bullpen was impressive while tossing the remaining five innings. Green (2.0 IP, 2 K), Britton (1.2 IP, 3 K) and Chapman (1.1 IP, 2K) all stepped up to the plate and came in clutch for relief.
The win-or-go-home rubber match awaits. Final: Yankees 5, Rays 1.
Game 5 Final: Yankees 1, Rays 2
Probables: TB – Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08 ERA) / NYY – Gerrit Cole (7-4, 2.84 ERA)
Win / Loss / Save: WP, TB Castillo (1-0) / LP, NYY Chapman (0-1)
And just like, that the New York Yankees 2020 season closes on a heartbreaking loss in Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series. In the first two losses, pitching was the main factor, but not tonight. In an all-around well-played game by both sides, one swing of the bat by Mike Brosseau kept Tampa Bay’s season alive in a 2-1 victory. For New York, squirming one run on three hits in which one was an Aaron Judge home run is all they could manage. The remaining pair of hits were singles from Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres.
Gerrit Cole took the ball and did his thing on only three days’ rest. The right-handed ace allowed a solo shot to Austin Meadows in the fifth for his only ER. Besides the solo shot, Cole’s outing was strong. His line at the end of the night: 5.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 9 K. Following Cole, Zack Britton was called upon in a relief outing. A smooth, calm road for Britton is how he went out. After Britton, Aroldis Chapman entered the game and this is where the road took a detour. For the second straight season, Chapman allowed a game-winning home-run in an elimination game to end the Yankees season. You can’t make this up. An absolute heartbreaker.
This marks the end of a long, windy road for the 2020 New York Yankees.
Player of the Game: SP Gerrit Cole: 5.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Player of the Series: DH Giancarlo Stanton: 5-19, 4 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI