Yanks load bases in 9th, but Rays rookie escapes for 3-1 win
In the minors, at least.
“It just hasn’t been at this level,” he said. “And certainly not in a stadium like Yankee Stadium.”
Or in the majors, period.
Kolarek escaped a critical jam in the ninth inning Thursday for his first career save, lifting the Rays over New York 3-1 to win their first series at Yankee Stadium since 2014. Tampa Bay had lost 12 straight series in the Bronx, a record since the ballpark opened in 2009.
“This can be an intimidating, daunting place to play,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “But I don’t think these guys really concern themselves with that too much.”
Kolarek got his moment in the Bronx spotlight after Sergio Romo struggled in the ninth. Romo allowed consecutive singles to Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres — Torres’ bloop ended his 0-for-17 skid — then walked Neil Walker on four pitches.
Cash then called for the side-arming Kolarek. Lefty-hitting Greg Bird popped out in foul territory on his first pitch, and then the 29-year-old Kolarek — who entered with a 6.00 ERA — struck out veterans Brett Gardner and Austin Romine. Romine chased a high fastball clocked at 95 mph.
It was the first time Kolarek had faced bases loaded with no outs in his big league career. He escaped in nine pitches.
“Getting Bird out on that first pitch was huge,” Kolarek said. “Because once you get one out, you’re like, ‘OK, I’m one pitch away.’ To get the strikeouts was just a little bit more special.”
The struggling Yankees lineup, still without injured sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, scored just six runs during the three-game series.
“We have people more than capable of putting runs on the board,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You obviously take two star-level players out, that’s certainly a big deal.”
Tommy Pham returned from the disabled list and helped the Rays jump on Masahiro Tanaka (9-3) with an RBI double during a two-run first inning, and Blake Snell (14-5) and the bullpen took over from there.
The left-handed All-Star made his third start since a DL stint for left shoulder fatigue and struck out six over five innings of two-hit ball. He was coming off five perfect innings against Toronto, though he was pulled from that start after just 47 pitches. He threw 76 pitches Thursday.
The Rays got to Tanaka with four straight hits to open the game. Mallex Smith lined a single the other way, stole second, then scored on Joey Wendle’s double to the right-center gap. After Jake Bauers’ single, Pham got his first hit with the Rays, driving a double off the wall in the left-field corner.
Pham was placed on the DL by Tampa Bay with a broken right foot two games after being acquired from St. Louis on July 31 for a trio of minor leaguers. Pham played one minor league rehab game, homering and getting three hits for Class A Hudson Valley on Wednesday night. He pleaded with Cash to get in the lineup and play his first career game at Yankee Stadium.
Pham added a single in the third, then hit a drive to the warning track in left-center that was caught by center fielder Aaron Hicks leading off the sixth.
Tanaka recovered after his shaky first, pitching scoreless ball for the next five innings before handing off to Zach Britton. Tanaka allowed nine hits, struck out six and also picked off a pair of baserunners.
Bauers squeezed home Smith against David Robertson in the eighth. Bauers’ bunt hugged the first-base line and gave Robertson no chance at a play at the plate.
Smith had two hits from the leadoff spot. He entered the game batting .353 with a .450 on-base percentage since being moved atop the order Aug. 5.
WATCH IT AGAIN
Giancarlo Stanton hit a ball in the eighth off the wall in the right-field corner that was originally ruled a home run by first base umpire Greg Gibson, but overturned to an RBI double after a video review . The ball hit about halfway up the wall, right on the foul stripe, and was nearly touched by a fan.
“Originally Greg thought it was a home run and then he said, ‘I think it was foul because it hit the wall in foul,” crew chief Jerry Layne told a pool reporter. “He goes, ‘I’m trying to get some help here.’ So he didn’t clearly see it. We weren’t a 100 percent.”
The Rays improved to 8-2 in their past 10 against New York and 8-7 overall this season. Tampa Bay hasn’t won the season series since 2014. The teams still have a four-game set at Tropicana Field in late September.
The first thing Judge did after arriving at Yankee Stadium was put Aretha Franklin on the clubhouse sound system, starting with her version of “I Say A Little Prayer.” The Queen of Soul died Thursday at the age of 76. Judge said his mom was a fan of Franklin’s, and he heard a lot of her music around the house as a kid.
“Good music,” he said. “Perfect for a day game.”
The Yankees played Franklin’s iconic performance from the movie “Blues Brothers” on the video board during the sixth inning.
Rays: RHP Jake Faria was optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Pham.
Yankees: Hicks was visited by a trainer after reaching on an error in the eighth. He remained in the game. Hicks turned his right ankle slightly on first base but thinks he’ll be fine. … Sanchez did sprints and worked on popping out of the squat in the outfield before the game. It was the first outdoor running for Sanchez since going on the disabled list July 24 with a strained right groin. Sanchez could begin a minor league rehab assignment next week. … Boone is hopeful that LHP CC Sabathia (right knee) will return from the DL to start the next time through the rotation. … RHP Tommy Kahnle was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill the spot vacated when RHP Luis Cessa was optioned to the RailRiders on Wednesday night. Kahnle pitched a scoreless inning.
Rays: RHP Stanek (1-3, 2.45) is the scheduled opener against Boston LHP Brian Johnson (3-3, 3.95) at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Yankees: RHP Lance Lynn (8-8, 4.46) faces Toronto RHP Marcus Stroman (4-8, 5.03) on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. Lynn has a 0.54 ERA in three appearances (two starts) since being acquired from Minnesota.