The highly anticipated Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays began Monday Oct. 5 as the Yankees outlasted the Rays in a tightly contested game to ultimately win Game 1 by a score of 9-3.
The Yankees and Rays both had their staff aces on the mound in Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell, but it was Cole who ultimately won the high-powered pitching duel. Both pitchers struggled with command and battled for the majority of their respective starts, allowing six hits and two walks each. The difference being that Cole went six innings, allowing only three runs while Snell lasted only five innings and gave up an additional fourth run off an Aaron Judge home run. Neither starting pitcher had played their best in Monday’s game, but Cole struck out eight batters and was able to deliver the Yankee bullpen a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. In the top of the 9th inning, the Rays put in rookie reliever John Curtiss to try to keep the game close, which proved to be a fatal move for Rays manager Kevin Cash. With men on 1st and 3rd base, the Yankees drove in a Kyle Higashioka run off an Aaron Hicks sac-fly to make the game 5-3 to start the inning. From there, New York loaded the bases and Giancarlo Stanton put an exclamation point on the night with his first career playoff grand slam. The Yankees won by a final score of 9-3 in what was a very close game prior to the 9th inning.
Behind an offense that’s currently firing on all cylinders right now, the New York Yankees should be feeling very confident going forward. So far, through three postseason games, the Yankees lead all playoff teams in batting average (.333), runs (31), hits (38), walks (20) home runs (11), on-base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.675) while facing the two best pitching teams in the American League in the Rays and Cleveland Indians. In Game 1 against Tampa Bay, New York combined for nine runs, 15 hits and five walks while every Yankee hitter reached base safely at least once. Though it was a balanced effort offensively, Giancarlo Stanton, who has previously struggled in October, is also now in the postseason lead for home runs (3) and runs batted in (7). On the other side, Gerrit Cole pitched well for his second win of the postseason in as many games and the bullpen didn’t allow a run in three innings of work.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who had the best record in AL throughout the regular season, also have reasons for optimism. Despite allowing nine runs, they have the superior pitching staff from top to bottom with three all-star caliber starting pitchers in Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton currently on the roster. Over the course of the regular season, the Rays were third in the league in earned-run-average while New York ranked 14th. The Rays also have the much deeper bullpen, so if they are able to chase a Yankee starter from the game before the 7th inning, the advantage shifts to Tampa Bay. However, with the Yankees playing as well as they are offensively, the Rays will need to put more runs on the board to win this series. In Game 1, the Rays earned only six hits and five walks while striking out 11 times. This offensive output looks even worse when you factor in that three of those six hits belonged to Randy Arozarena, who was brilliant in Game 1. Eight of the 12 total Rays hitters failed to record a hit while five never reached base. The offense will have to step up in order to give the team a chance to win this series.
Game 2 is on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 8:10 p.m. Eastern. The Rays will have Glasnow on the mound while rookie Deivi Garcia will pitch for New York.