The way the Yankees have hit lately, their games have largely lacked drama because their lineup hasn’t posed much of a comeback threat.
They made up for it in emphatic fashion Wednesday night.
After erasing a four-run deficit to force extra innings and then falling behind by three runs in the top of the 10th, Josh Donaldson pulled the Yankees from the depths of despair with a walk-off grand slam for a stunning 8-7 win. over the Radios in the Bronx.
“Just a great fight all night,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously [it’s] not easy for us right now, but we are in the fight and we just have to keep fighting. Great to see that level of at-bats to end a game when it looked like it was stripped away from us.”
The victory broke a three-game losing streak and saved the Yankees (73-45) from sweeping the Rays (62-54), who returned to 10 games back in second place in the AL East.
On a day that began with calling up Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial for a youthful injection to their lineup, the Yankees won for the third time in their last 14 games and showed signs of rediscovering their mojo.
With Aaron Judge the automatic runner on second base to start the bottom of the 10th, a Gleyber Torres single and an Anthony Rizzo walk against Rays reliever Jalen Beeks loaded the bases for Donaldson, who was stranded in a 3-for-28 slump. He fired an 0-1 pitch to the opposite field and it landed on the short porch to set off a wild celebration.
“I definitely think that was probably a release of some joy and some frustration over the past couple of weeks,” Donaldson said.
Aroldis Chapman lost the strike zone in the top of the 10th inning. He came in with one out and the automatic runner on second base, then walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches.
However, he was still one strike away from leaving the bases loaded with a 4-4 tie intact before Francisco Mejia grounded a bases-clearing double down the first-base line to put the Rays up 7-4.
“That’s one of those gut punches with what we’re going through, especially when it felt like Chappy was righting the ship a little bit there,” Boone said. “But thanks to the guys. It’s like, ‘Hey, let’s keep fighting.’ “
In the eighth inning, Anthony Rizzo took the big swing that the Yankees had previously missed. He crushed a solo home run into the right-field seats off Rays lefty Brooks Raley to tie the score 4-4 an inning after the Yankees squandered a quality chance to tie it or take the lead.
The home run snapped a 2-for-26 funk in which Rizzo was mired because he missed five games with back spasms.
After a 63-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh — and a nice shoe grab by Florial in center field to keep the Rays’ lead at 4-2 shortly after play resumed — the Yankees started to come alive in the bottom of the. innings
Jose Trevino led off with a bunt single and DJ LeMahieu, in his first appearance since Saturday due to a toe injury, followed with a pinch-hit single on the first pitch he faced. One out later, Andrew Benintendi walked to load the bases.
The Rays brought in reliever Pete Fairbanks, who promptly walked Aaron Judge on four pitches to bring the Yankees within 4-3.
But Torres, who crushed a two-run homer off Corey Kluber earlier in the game to start the Yankees’ comeback, came up and on the first pitch hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Yankees had Torres’ back, though, just as they had Chapman a few innings later.
It was too early to tell if the wild win could fully snap the Yankees out of their recent malaise, but it was a start.
“That was special,” Boone said, “that hopefully we can look back on fondly.”