SAN DIEGO — First “New York, New York” played over the Petco Park sound system Friday night, a handful of Rays players dancing outside their dugout, smoking cigars and toasting each other.
Then “Empire State of Mind.”
Good god, these Rays. What’ll they do next, kidnap Billy Crystal?
A Yankees-hater couldn’t have scripted this pinstriped ousting any better: Done in by a team with a fraction of their payroll. Of their fan base. And by the guy who their guy nearly beaned with a 101-mph fastball.
Another Yankees season wraps up without a World Series appearance, and this one must sting immensely. Mike Brosseau’s eighth-inning solo home run off Aroldis Chapman propelled the Rays over the Yankees, 2-1, in American League Division Series Game 5 Friday. The win advanced the Rays into the AL Championship Series against the defending league champion Astros.
For this COVID-reduced season, the Yankees wound up playing the Rays 15 times, more than any other opponent. The Rays posted a noticeably lopsided 11-4 edge in those meetings.
“It means a lot,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They set the bar really high. Up until this year they’ve probably had their way with us, I’m proud of the guys and how they were able to battle through a lot and win against a great team.”
In a rare 2020 Yankees win against the Rays, on Sept. 1 at Yankee Stadium, Chapman threw that 101-mph fastball at Brosseau’s head, missing him by a few inches and lighting a match on tensions that exploded moments later, after Chapman fanned Brosseau to end the game, as both sides emptied their dugouts and jawed at each other. After the game, Cash ripped into his Yankees counterpart Aaron Boone and threatened, “I’ve got a whole damn stable of guys who throw 98 miles per hour. Period.”
Major League Baseball suspended Chapman for three games, a sentence that is still in the appeals process. Whatever winds up happening with that, the Rays surely will consider Brosseau’s ALDS-winning homer the best brand of justice.
“That was very storybook. That was crazy,” said Tyler Glasnow, who started the game on two days’ rest for the Rays and threw 2 ¹/₃ shutout innings. “To go up there, all the history we’ve had, especially with Chapman, that’s just nuts.”
“It goes down as the greatest moment I’ve been a part of in baseball,” said Cash, a 42-year-old baseball lifer. “For how we got there, that matchup, it’s pretty special.”
(“The revenge is not a thought in my mind,” Brosseau said. Maybe in his heart, though?)
Moreover, that “stable” about which Cash (who got a one-game suspension for his words) boasted? He let ’em run on this night. After Glasnow picked up seven outs, Cash turned to a trio of guys — Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo — who throw gas. They combined to strike out 11 Yankees, who totaled only three hits, and most importantly just one home run (Aaron Judge) to the Rays’ two (Brosseau and Austin Meadows).
“The gates were open,” Fairbanks said, “and the horses were running.”
While the Yankees can shrug off some of what transpired this season based on the far smaller than usual sample, they’ll have regrets or concerns to mull: Gary Sanchez’s decline into virtually unplayable. Gleyber Torres’ unreliable defense at shortstop; he made an error in this game that didn’t directly hurt them yet forced ace Gerrit Cole, starting on three days’ rest, to work harder. Their confounding Game 2 decision to limit Deivi Garcia to opening duties and then bring in unhappy veteran J.A. Happ as a bulk guy, a move that failed and impacted everything that followed.
Most of all, though, they must wonder how they got pushed around by the little guys on their block. The Rays drove the Yankees crazy and sent them home. It’s their 2020 season in a painful nutshell.
Asked about the playing of “New York, New York” afterwards, Fairbanks said, “I’m not the one responsible for it. I prefer happier music than Frank Sinatra. That song gets on my nerves, to be honest.”
Rub it in, why don’t they? The Yankees have all winter to lick their wounds. They know the Rays will be waiting for them next spring.
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