The Yankees were in a bind Thursday when they learned expected starter Luis Severino would have to hit the COVID-IL. So they had to approach Clarke Schmidt for the start and call Triple-A Scranton’s Ryan Weber to take Severino’s roster spot, which was very likely. They also had no Clay Holmes or Wandy Peralta available to throw from the bullpen after every assister threw in the first two games of that series. So securing this possible sweep of the beams was anything but a barrier.
It may not be until mid-June, but fans have already learned that the Yankees are operating with some kind of magic in 2022. Both Schmidt and Weber were outstanding, and while the Yankees’ offense only managed four hits against the Rays’ own bullpen play committee, Anthony Rizzo provided everything they needed. He finished the game in the sixth and finished at the end of the ninth, earning a 2-1 win and that nice sweep.
Schmidt did all he could for the Yankees on a limited number of pitches. He buckled in and got through a brief two-out jam in the first to prompt a groundout from Randy Arozarena to pin a runner in goal position. Schmidt then retired the next six straight batters, ending his day with no runs and five strikeouts in three innings.
The night was a fond reminder of what a luxury it is for the Yankees to have Schmidt on their pitching staff. He’d start at almost every other team in the majors, and Aaron Boone just gets to stick him in the opener. Schmidt would never have a high innings count this year anyway, having not pitched too much in 2020-21, so it’s probably better for him long-term. He will have his time to shine and he showed his talent tonight.
The Rays’ pitching team also did a good job keeping the Yankees off the board. It would have been difficult for opener Jalen Beeks to top his performance. He could only go two innings as a helper, but damn it if he wasn’t perfect. Kevin Cash will not have any notes for him.
Matt Wisler broke off Beeks with a 1-2-3 third before setting up Aaron Judge with a one-out walk in the fourth. In the world of expected batting average, the Yankees would have scored here as both Rizzo (.610 xBA) and Giancarlo Stanton (.800 xBA) both put a load on their swings. But Rizzo’s drive died 380 feet away at the right midfield warning lane, and after Judge stole second place, Stanton’s 118.8-mph rocket went straight at Vidal Bruján’s glove. It’s baseball, Suzyn.
Fresh out of the minor leagues, Weber made his Yankees debut as a fourth-place substitute for Schmidt. For a man going into 2022 with a 5.28 ERA in 63 games over a seven-year career, expectations weren’t particularly high, so his 3.2-inning performance was perfectly acceptable (and how). The only blemish was that Francisco Mejía shot a ball 120 yards over the right field line in the first run of the game:
Mejía has pop in the racket and Weber made a mistake. So life is. The Yankees were grateful that Jose Trevino also knocked out Harold Ramirez in an attempt to steal second place just short of that spot; Otherwise it could have been a 2-0 hole.
Even with the Mejía blast on the books, Weber went straight back to business, retiring the next six straight batters. When Boone took the ball from him with two downs in the seventh game, he had made 11 decisive outs in that ball game. Between Schmidt and Weber, the Yankees essentially got a terrific Severino outing: 6.2 innings of one-run ball with only three hits and a single walk allowed (plus six strikeouts). Bravo to both of them.*
*Weaver was intended for assignment right after the game when Severino’s PCR test confirmed he didn’t have COVID. Sevy will travel to Toronto with the team, and over time Weber will either find an opportunity elsewhere or return to Scranton. However, if this was his only career appearance in pinstripes, it was a good one.
The Yankees’ offense stayed calm against the roulette of the Rays’ helpers, but they at least took Weber off the hook for the Mejía blast. Ryan Thompson turned out to be the weak link in Cash’s bullpen game strategy as he had absolutely nothing. Entering in sixth place, Thompson dealt back-to-back free tickets to DJ LeMahieu and Judge. That gave Rizzo an opportunity not to miss another RBI opportunity:
After the three-batter minimum, Cash hooked Thompson and got Jason Adam to confront Stanton, who finished the inning. Two other runners remained on base, but the game ended with a well-appreciated punch from Rizzo.
Ron Marinaccio and Michael King kept the Rays off the board — heck, the scoring column — through the ninth half of the game, and in the home half, Rizzo had another chance to score a key goal. Shawn Armstrong dropped a 96-mile sinker that caught way too much of the zone, and the three-time All-Star thrashed him:
Rizzo really was an excellent signing for the 2022 season. I thought he would be okay, but 16 homers and 128 wRC+ in 62 games with tons of saving picks on first base? That’s a valuable guy to have on your team.
The Yankees are now at an absurd 47-16 and have put 12 games between them and the third-ranked Rays. They’ve won seven in a row (not to mention 14 straight home wins) and will jump from one division rival to the next tomorrow night. They will head north of the border to take on the second-placed Blue Jays at Rogers Center, with Jordan Montgomery set to take on Ross Stripling. Join us at 7:07pm ET for the first pitch.