Thursday, August 18, 2022

Yankees Win One Of The Wildest Games Of Their Season On Donaldson Walk-Off Grand Slam


The Yankees mob Josh Donaldson after his game-winning grand slam. @Yankees.

The Yankees had one of their more improbable wins of the season on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, as they battled back from 4-0 and 7-4 deficits to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-7, on a walk-off grand slam by Josh Donaldson at just about the stroke of midnight capping a long night that included a rain delay in the seventh inning.

This was a much needed victory for the Yankees, as they avoided a three-game sweep to Tampa Bay, broke a stretch in which they won just two of their last 13 games, and gave a much needed boost to an offense that had just one run in their prior three games. They are now 73-45, and increase their lead in the American League East lead back to 10 games over Tampa Bay, who fell to 62-54.

The Rays got on the board first against Yankees starter Domingo German, as Yandy Diaz had an RBI double in third and a two-run double in the fifth to make it 3-0. 

Yandy Diaz connecting on his RBI double in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

German would go only 4 2/3 innings, allowing those three runs (all earned) on five hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.

Tampa Bay would make it 4-0 when Harold Ramirez blasted a home run to left field in the sixth off Yankees reliever Lucas Luetge.

By this point, Rays starter, ex-Yankee Corey Kluber, was cruising, as he allowed just two hits and had seven strikeouts, including five in a row in the fourth and fifth innings. 

The Yankees finally got to their old teammate in the sixth when Aaron Judge led off with a double down the right field line that Randy Arozarena couldn't get to, and then Gleyber Torres hit a bomb to left for a two-run homer, his 17th of the season, to make it 4-2.

Kluber recovered to retire the next three Yankees to end the sixth and close an impressive outing. His final line was: 6 innings pitched, 4 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 walk, 8 strikeouts. He remains 7-7 and he lowered his ERA (earned run average) from 4.40 to 4.33.

Corey Kluber pitching to Andrew Benintendi in the third inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

In the seventh, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out against Rays reliever Colin Poche, and they then turned to Pete Fairbanks to face Aaron Judge, and he walked him on four pitches to force in a run and make it 4-3 Tampa Bay. Fairbanks then got Gleyber Torres to hit into a double play to end the frame.

In the eighth, Tampa Bay turned to left-hander Brooks Raley since Anthony Rizzo was leading off the innings, and the Yankees first baseman greeted him with a monster shot to right field to tie the game at four. The solo shot was Rizzo's 28th dinger of the season, and gave him 68 RBI as well.

Scott Effross worked around a Brandon Lowe walk to pitch a scoreless ninth, in which he notched two strikeouts, and Tampa Bay;s Ryan Thomspon retired the Yankees in order in the bottom half, although Aaron Judge nearly won it with a majestic blast to center field that was caught on the warning track. 

Aaron Judge connecting on what could have been a walk-off home run for him in the ninth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Effross stayed on for the tenth, and retired Harold Ramirez on a groundout before he was lifted for Aroldis Chapman, who has been his old self of late.

This outing might have changed the thinking that Chapman could reprise his role as closer, as he walked Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls to load the bases (the "ghost runner" David Peralta was at second base). Jose Siri then struck out for the second out, but Francisco Mejia more than made up for that, as he laced a double to right field to clear the bases and make it 7-4 Rays. Diaz popped out to end the inning.

Tampa Bay turned to Jalen Beeks for the bottom of the tenth, and with Judge the "ghost runner" at second, Torres singled and Rizzo walked to load the bases for Donaldson, who launched a no-doubter the opposite way, to right field, for the game-winning grand slam, and an 8-7 win for the Yankees.

Donaldson was just the third Yankee to hit a "walk-off" grand slam with the team down by at least three runs. The other two instances were Jason Giambi's on May 17, 2002, against Minnesota, when they were down 12-9 in the 14th, ending a marathon game on a rainy Friday night and giving him his first big moment as a Yankee; and Babe Ruth, on September 24, 1925, when the Yankees were down 5-2 in the 10th inning.

To buff out that stat a little more, Donaldson became just the tenth Yankee to hit a "walk-off" grand slam, and he was just the fifth Yankee to hit one in extra innings, along with Giambi and The Babe (as described above), Ruppert Jones (10th inning on August 12, 1980 vs. the White Sox) and Joe Pepitone (10th inning on April 17, 1969 vs. the Washington Senators).

For the 2022 Yankees, this was their Major League-leading 13th walk-off of the season, and that is tied for fourth-most in franchise history, behind just the 1943 Yankees (17), 2009 Yankees (15), and 1904 Yankees (14). They also recorded 13 walk-offs in 1942, 1961, and 1978.

It was their 31st come-from-behind win of the season, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers' 33. The four-run comeback matches their largest of the season, which they have done four times, lastly on July 13th against Cincinnati.

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