Yankees 2, Rays 1: Rizzo’s departure earns Johnny Wholestaff sweep

The Yankees were at an impasse Thursday when they learned that expected starter Luis Severino was expected to hit COVID-IL. So they had to look to Clarke Schmidt for the start and call in Triple-A Scranton’s Ryan Weber to take Severino’s place, with an appearance very likely. They also didn’t have Clay Holmes or Wandy Peralta available to come out of the bullpen after every reliever pitched the first two games of this series. So securing this possible Rays sweep was far from a lock.

It may only be mid-June, but fans have already learned that the 2022 Yankees are operating with some kind of magic. Both Schmidt and Weber were excellent, and while the Yankees offense only had four hits against the Rays’ own reliever play committee, Anthony Rizzo provided everything they needed. He tied the game in sixth and finished bottom of ninth, earning a 2-1 victory and that magnificent sweep.

Schmidt did everything he could for the Yankees on a limited number of pitches. He tied up and ran through a brief two-out jam in the first to induce a groundout from Randy Arozarena to block a runner in scoring position. Schmidt then struck out the next six batters in a row, finishing his day with no runs and five strikeouts in three innings.

The night served as a good reminder of what a luxury it is for the Yankees to have Schmidt on their pitching team. On almost any other major league team, he would start, and Aaron Boone just manages to shove him in the bullpen. Schmidt was never going to have a high innings count this year anyway after not pitching too much in 2020-21, so it’s probably better for him in the long run. He will have his time to shine, and he showed his talents tonight.

The Rays’ pitching staff also did a good job keeping the Yankees off the board. It would have been difficult for fly-half Jalen Beeks to top his outing. As a reliever, he could only play two innings, but damn if he wasn’t perfect. Kevin Cash will have no rating for him.

Matt Wisler relieved Beeks with a 1-2-3 third before walking Aaron Judge in the fourth. In the world of expected batting average, the Yankees would have scored here, as Rizzo (.610 xBA) and Giancarlo Stanton (.800 xBA) both put a charge in their swings. But Rizzo’s drive died out at 380ft on the right center field warning track, and after Judge stole second, Stanton’s 118.8mph missile went straight to Vidal Bruján’s glove. . It’s baseball, Suzyn.

Fresh out of the minor leagues, Weber made his Yankees debut as a replacement for Schmidt in the fourth. For a guy who entered 2022 with a 5.28 ERA in 63 games over a seven-year career, expectations weren’t very high, which made his 3.2 inning effort perfectly acceptable (and how ). The only flaw was Francisco Mejía who blistered a fly ball 382 feet down the right field line for the first inning of the game:

Mejía has pop in his bat and Weber made a mistake. That’s life. The Yankees were grateful that Jose Trevino took down Harold Ramirez trying to steal second place just short of that pitch as well; otherwise, it could have been a 2-0 hole.

Even with Mejía’s explosion on the books, Weber went straight back to business and struck out the next six batters in a row. By the time Boone took the ball from him with two downs in the seventh, he had recorded 11 game-winning strikeouts in that baseball game. Between Schmidt and Weber, the Yankees basically got a terrific outing from Severino: 6.2 one-run innings with just three hits and only one walk allowed (plus six strikeouts). Kudos to both of you.*

*Weber was designated for assignment right after the match, as Severino’s PCR test confirmed he did not have COVID. Sevy will travel with the team to Toronto, and in time Weber will find an opportunity elsewhere or return to Scranton. If it was his only career appearance in the stripes, it was a good one.

The Yankees offense remained calm against the Rays’ reliever roulette, but they at least clinched Weber for the Mejía outburst. Ryan Thompson proved to be the weakest link in Cash’s bullpen game strategy, as he had absolutely nothing. Gifted with a two-out, none-over scenario when he entered the sixth, Thompson delivered back-to-back byes to DJ LeMahieu and Judge. This set the stage for Rizzo not to waste another RBI opportunity:

With the three-batter minimum hit, Cash hooked Thompson and brought in Jason Adam to face Stanton, who retired to end the inning. Two other runners stayed on base, but the game was tied on a much-appreciated hit by Rizzo.

Ron Marinaccio and Michael King kept the Rays off the board — heck, off the hit column — until the ninth, and in the half, Rizzo had another chance to provide a hit. Shawn Armstrong crashed into a 96mph sinker that took way too much of the zone, and the three-time All-Star beat him:

Rizzo has really been a great signing for the 2022 season. I thought he would be fine, but 16 home runs and a 128 wRC+ in 62 games with countless first base error save picks? He’s a valuable guy to have on your team.

The Yankees are now an absurd 47-16 and have put 12 games between them and the third-placed Rays. They have won seven in a row (not to mention 14 home wins in a row) and will go from one division rival to another tomorrow night. They will travel north of the border to take on the second-placed Blue Jays at Rogers Center, with Jordan Montgomery set to face Ross Stripling. Join us for the first pitch at 7:07 p.m. ET.

The score of the box


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