Gleyber Torres, Luke Weaver save Yankees from stunningly similar Rays collapse to 2023 version

May 12, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25)
May 12, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest hit of Gleyber Torres' season resulted in a trio of stunning insurance runs that never should've been necessary.

Luckily, in what could've been an exceedingly dark time for both the Yankees and their second baseman, who's currently mired in a walk year-defining slump, the team proved emphatically that they might be slightly different from their depressing 2023 counterparts.

In case you needed more evidence that this year's bunch is motivated by the failures of last season, and is trying harder every day to avoid the doom of reliving them, the Yankees ended up in a strikingly similar position to 2023 on Sunday, May 12 at Tropicana Field.

One year prior (Sunday, May 7, almost to the day), the Yankees held a 6-0 lead behind the arm of Gerrit Cole entering the bottom of the fifth inning. Though the 2023 team would eventually rebound and reach their season's high water mark, what happened next served as a harbinger, reminding all fans that, no matter how secure they felt in the moment, the worst was truly possible with this roster.

Jose Siri got the action started with a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth, and while Cole escaped that inning with just two runs on the board, he allowed four more in the next frame, with Christian Bethancourt tying the game with a three-run smash. Jimmy Cordero broke the tie with some fumbles mere seconds later; the Yankees "rallied back" in empty fashion, losing in extras on the road (no wayyyy, not these Yankees).

This Sunday, it was Luis Gil who was staked to the 6-0 advantage, and unlike Cole, he was able to shepherd it safely to his personal finish line, handing it to the bullpen in the seventh. Ah, but such is the disease of fandom. Some Yankee fans likely felt comfortable, while others couldn't help but recall why the idea of a 6-0 advantage at the Trop was stuck in their craw.

With the bases loaded and one out against Caleb Ferguson, Siri again put the Rays' first runs on the board with a grand slam, in an eerie and even more damaging twist than last year's knife provided. From that point, Nick Burdi walked two and drilled a batter. There were endless opportunities to avert disaster, and yet not a single one was being taken advantage of.

Luke Weaver, the Yankees' second-most reliable reliever this season, then entered, but it appeared to be too late when he also drilled a batter on a two-strike count. 6-5. Still just one out. The bases were still reloaded. The Yankees no longer seemed likely to win or even maintain a tie through the frame. The only question still remaining was how much the loss would affect future performances, and how many seeds of doubt it would sow.

Until Weaver somehow, some way, made a powerful statement against the universe being circular. Soft fly out to right. Soft grounder to short. Lead intact.

Yankees survive Rays thanks to Luke Weaver, Gleyber Torres heroics

And, as if Weaver's Houdini act (or was it a 2009 David Robertson act?) wasn't enough, the Yankees sent their most terrified cat to the plate in a crucial spot in the eighth. After Clay Holmes threw 30+ pitches to barely secure a win on Friday, most assumed he would not be returning Sunday -- and, if he were to do so, would be half-there. A one-run lead was not enough.

With Gleyber Torres, slumping mightily, at the dish with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth, fans across the country whispered the mantra, "Just get one." Grounder. Flyout. Just get one.

Torres, quickly in a two-strike hole, got all three.

No one yet knows how 2024 will end. In glory? In tatters? In some form of hard-to-define stasis?

But Sunday's game, which keyed an improbable series win at an air-conditioned building that's haunted the Yankees since before Carl Crawford went to Boston, made a fairly emphatic argument that the ending to this particular story would look very little like last year's.

At least, it's hard to find a clearer sign from the universe than being subjected to the same spiral as last May and ultimately winning by four runs.