Yankees: Girardi in full playoffs mode in win at “eerie” Citi Field

The Yankees played the game as if it was a playoff game they’ll soon be involved in. Their starting pitcher was removed in the fifth inning with a four-run lead, the bullpen shined, and a three-run home run did all the needed damage.

The Yankees left their nearby homes yesterday afternoon not sure of what to expect when they arrived at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets. Eight hours later, they returned home with a satisfying win against the Tampa Bay Ray and a sense they had just been involved in one of the “weirdest” and “eeriest” games they’ll ever play.

Those were the words most often used by Yankees players to describe the atmosphere at Citi Field when they looked up and saw the entire upper deck closed to fans attending the game. Which was just as well since the announced attendance for the game was only 15,237, just below the average gate of 15,309 the Rays draw back in Tampa.

Dellin Betances put it this way to Dan Marchand from ESPN:

Dellin Betances on playing at Citi Field, but not against the Mets: “It is weird. Obviously, coming into the stadium, you see all the workers who have Mets’ gear on. Then when you look outside, you see the Rays. It is kind of different. It is weird to be honest, with you.”

Girardi makes an early move

Joe Girardi added to the “weirdness” of the game too, pulling CC Sabathia from the game with a 5-1 lead and after only 88 pitches, a number not even enough for Sabathia to break a sweat. Perhaps it was that Girardi is already in playoffs mode and with runners on first and second, he didn’t want to chance anything. Still, it was odd to see.

Using the triumvirate of David Robertson, who earned the win, Betances, and the Yankees newly refound closer, Aroldis Chapman, the Rays went down easily as the team climbed to within three games of the Division lead, while padding their lead to four games over the idle Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card race.

Girardi’s insistence on playing his power hitting and excellent fielding, Todd Frazier, at third base over Chase Headley worked out well as Frazier cracked his 24th home run of the season with two on and two out in the fourth inning, solidifying all the offense the Yankees would need for the night.

And it’s a good thing Frazier delivered because the Yankees managed only four hits in the game. They did, however, take advantage of six walks as gifts from Ray’s pitching, including three from Ray’s starter, Jake Odorizzi, who also surrendered Frazier’s blast.

Bird is down with back spasms

It wasn’t all good news though as Greg Bird came up with back spasms, scratching him from the lineup just before game time. Early reports see Bird missing at least two or three games. Rookie Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.

Jacoby Ellsbury recorded one of those odd achievements in baseball when he reached base for the 30th time in his career on catcher’s interference, breaking the record set by Pete Rose.

It’s back to business again tonight, and a routine of sorts will have settled in at Citi Field, where tickets are still going for $25 a pop with even the resale market quiet and reasonable.

The hits just keep on coming for the Yankees, who are now 7-3 in their last ten games. Sonny Gray goes for his tenth win of the season tonight. He’ll be opposed by former Pirate, Blake Snell.

For the scoreboard watchers out there, the Red Sox entertain the Oakland A’s while the Twins are home to face the San Diego Padres. Meaning, the Yankees will probably have to win to keep pace with both teams.

A moment from Yankees history

Commemorating the 9/11 attack, the following occurred on September 11, 2002, and is provided by National Pastime.

Yankee legends Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto unveiled a monument dedicated to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The team also has a ceremonial tree planting in Monument Park in honor of the heroes and victims of the horrific events of a year ago.

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