Rays Take Two Out Of Three Games Against Yankees In Home Opener

The Rivalry Continues

Lily Belcher, Editor In Chief

It’s a rivalry fueled by sharp remarks across the field and fastballs barreled into the sides (and heads) of batters. The 22 year long Rays Yankees rivalry came to a peak last year in the American League Divisional Series when Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman slung a 101 mph fastball at Rays infielder Mike Brosseau’s head, who responded with a homer at his next at bat…just in case you had forgotten. But, even after the offseason, which was longer for the Yankees who had to watch the World Series from their couches instead of the dugout benches, the bitter rivalry continued into the first series between the two American League East teams of the 2021 season.

In the weekend series against New York, the Rays took two out of three victories against the Yankees, with a shut out in the second game.

Friday marked the home opener for the Rays, who raised the American League East Champions banner minutes before the first pitch as the Yankees watched from the dugout.

Rich Hill, a 41-year-old lefty acquired in the off season, had a respectable six inning start, giving up four runs and striking out seven.

“He was outstanding the entire game,” said manager Kevin Cash in the postgame interview. “[We] really saw Rich [Hill] get into a nice groove with the fastball-curveball combination.”

The main show was the slug fest between the “Bronx Bombers” and Rays. The Rays combined for ten runs off 13 hits against the Yankees weak pitching staff. The Rays came alive in the third and fourth innings (scoring seven runs) led by infielders Brandon Lowe (with a bases clearing double in the fourth) and Joey Wendle. The Rays beat the Yankees 10-5 in the first game of the series and snapped a slippery four game losing streak, providing a huge morale boost for in the clubhouse.

“We had good at bats. There’s no denying it was different than what we saw the last two or three days in Fenway,” said Cash. “The guys were excited to get back here. The day off probably helped and they’re excited to play in front of our fans.”

The win motivated the Rays to a shutout victory the following afternoon despite Chris Archer leaving the game in the third with forearm tightness. The 4-0 victory came after two homeruns by Austin Meadows in the first and Randy Arozarena in the third.

“I’m very happy with the results that I have and im more excited about the collective effort of the whole team that we got the win,” said Arozarena through a translator. “Its definitely a great step going into the homestand.”

With Archer taking a spot on the 10-day IL, the Rays called up pitcher Brent Honeywell Jr., who became the second Ray in history to make his MLB debut against the New York Yankees (ex-Ray Blake Snell was the first to do so in 2016). Honeywell stood in the team’s dugout looking out at the empty field while Cash hosted a pre-game press conference, which he joked to Honeywell was the “longest press conference I’ve had pregame in six years.”

Honeywell pitched two innings as the opener, retiring all six of the batters he faced.

“I kind of just, honestly, put it to the side and [got] to work. It’s a lot of fun,” said Honeywell. “I’m here to do one thing and that’s to get guys out.”

The Rays fell short of a sweep after losing in extra innings when right-hander Colin McHugh gave up four runs in the tenth inning. The battle between the teams started early with Austin Meadows getting hit by Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. Both dugouts were issued warnings by umpires, yet Meadows was hit a second time by Montgomery, who received no discipline for the attack.

The Rays and Yankees battled until the bottom of the tenth when the Yankees scored four runs off rookie fielding errors ending the game with an 8-4 loss for the Rays.

Tampa Bay ended the weekend taking two of three against the Yankees, who have maintained a sparkling reputation despite the dirty, unsportsmanlike approach they take while facing rivals. Yankees pitchers threw high and inside at Tampa Bay batters multiple times over the weekend, replicating the nasty play they used against Brosseau, and hit three batters. The Rays didn’t retaliate and were able to beat the Yankees fair and square by simply being the better ball players (and no, the two “hit by pitches” were bad calls by umpires and not even close to the purposeful hit by pitches the Yankees threw at Wendle and Meadows). The Rays have won 15 out of 20 games since September of 2019 and have outscored them 92-72.

The Rays will play four games against the Texas Rangers before traveling to Yankees Stadium for another three day weekend series.