Just like old times: Derek Jeter returns, Alfonso Soriano helps Yankees walk off

35 Comments

Before he joined the Yankees on Friday, Alfonso Soriano was last teammates with Derek Jeter in September 2003, nearly ten years ago. Jeter once again made his triumphant return this afternoon, having recovered from a quad injury suffered in his 2013 debut on July 11. In that first game back, Jeter singled in his first at-bat, swinging at the first pitch he saw. He did that once again today, swinging at the first offering from Rays starter Matt Moore, sending it beyond the fence in right-center field for a solo home run.

Both Moore and Yankees starter Phil Hughes allowed five runs. Wil Myers was the source of the Rays’ offense, as the rookie hit two home runs and drove in four. For the Yankees, Soriano homered in the third while Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-4.

Closer Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, holding the score at five apiece. For the Rays, lefty Jake McGee took the hill for his second inning of work in the bottom half of the inning. He walked Brett Gardner to start the frame, then allowed the Yankees’ speedster to advance to second on a wild pitch. In what was a controversial decision, manager Joe Maddon ordered his pitcher to intentionally walk Jeter to put runners on first and second with no outs, bringing Robinson Cano to the plate. To the dismay of Yankees’ fans, Cano struck out looking, not even able to advance one or both runners.

Soriano happily played the role of hero, grounding a single up the middle, allowing Gardner to sprint the 180 feet to home plate for the walk-off victory. To recap: Jeter and Soriano both homer, Soriano keys the walk-off, and Rivera goes home with the win. Just like old times.

With the win, the Yankees are only 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League and sit in fourth place in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first place Red Sox. The Rays fall to second place, a half-game behind the Red Sox. The AL East is shaping up to be an exciting division to watch in the final two months.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: