The Tampa Bay Rays believe themselves to be the smartest people in the room, no matter what room they’re in.
Though their pitching staff locked zeroes with the New York Yankees‘ arms for eight-and-a-half innings on Sunday afternoon, they finally got too big for their britches in the bottom of the ninth.
Rougned Odor began the inning with a bloop single, giving way to pinch-runner Tyler Wade. Gleyber Torres very nearly lifted and separated a home run into the right-center field bullpen, but missed by a foot or two, sending Wade to second.
The team’s Wild Card spot, all of a sudden, was on Anthony Rizzo’s bat, and he delivered, smashing a too-hard liner into right. Wade rounded third. Phil Nevin told him to go. Phil Nevin then reversed course and told him to stop.
He stopped. Rizzo took second. Surely, new pitcher Andrew Kittredge would intentionally walk Aaron Judge in order to set up the 2021 Yankees’ favorite thing, a ground ball double play off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton.
We’ve watched a lot of baseball this year. Most good, some bad, almost all of it shocking.
When Aaron Judge was in the batter’s box instead of standing at first base after the commercial break, it might’ve been the most shockingly brazen moment of confidence we’ve seen all year from a rival. The Rays’ pretension did not pay off.
Aaron Judge walked the Rays off and sent the Yankees to the postseason.
What. Was Kevin Cash. Thinking?!
No more fumbling for words to describe the many ways this offense had chosen to let down the pitching staff. No more awkward Ken Singleton farewells while the Bombers offense made his final day in the booth particularly bleak. No more dissections of the team’s pitching plan, or Gerrit Cole’s absence from Sunday’s game.
All we have left are kudos, for a job well done bringing a .500 team at the All-Star break to the MLB playoffs, polishing off a 6-3 week and doing exactly what we asked of them against their three chief rivals.
Cheers to Jameson Taillon for starting this game with 3.1 brilliant innings on a bum ankle. Cheers to Wandy Peralta for collecting himself. Cheers to Clay Holmes, Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, and even Aroldis Chapman. Cheers to Nelson Cruz for flailing at a fastball cutting in on his hands, Mariano Rivera-style. Cheers to Kevin Kiermaier for never scoring — not once.
And cheers, of course, to Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, and Aaron Judge, for sending the Bombers into the MLB playoffs, and giving the team a chance.