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Monday, May 29, 2023

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Yankees come back against MLB-best Rays in rollercoaster game thanks to two Anthony Rizzo home runs

Friday night in the Bronx, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays played one of the wildest, most action-packed games of the young season. Thanks to a pair of Anthony Rizzo home runs, including a go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth inning, the Yankees escaped with a 5-4 win (box score). The two teams have split the first two games of this four-game weekend series.

Even with the loss, the Rays are only the 22nd team in baseball history to win 30 of their first 40 games, and only the sixth to do it in the Expansion Era (since 1961). The Los Angeles Dodgers started 30-10 in the 60-game pandemic season in 2020. The last team to do it in a 162-game season was the 2011 Seattle Mariners, who started 31-9.

Friday’s win improved the Yankees to 22-18, which has them in last place in the AL East but would have them in second place in each of the other five divisions. Here’s a recap of all the carnage from Friday’s back-and-forth affair. 

Arozarena starred on both side of the ball

You have to give Randy Arozarena this: the man has a flare for the dramatic. Handsome Randy’s postseason heroics are well-documented, plus he stole the show with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic this spring. On Friday, Arozarena opened the scoring with a second-deck solo homer against Gerrit Cole, then saved two runs with a diving catch in the late innings.

The Rays of course acquired Arozarena from the St. Louis Cardinals in January 2020. That trade hasn’t worked out too well for the Cardinals, though there’s still a chance they’ll get something out of it. Tampa has no complaints, however. Arozarena has been one of the best players in the game the last few years, and certainly one of most clutch.

Volpe broke out of his slump

Yankees manager Aaron Boone dropped rookie Anthony Volpe to the No. 7 spot in the lineup Friday. Volpe had hit leadoff since April 16, but he entered play Friday in a 9 for 57 (.158) rut. Boone cited the healthy return of Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge as the reason for dropping Volpe, not his slump.

Either way, Volpe came through big time Friday, first tying the game with a solo homer, then giving the Yankees the lead with an RBI single. It was his first two-hit game since May 5. 

Even with the two-hit game Friday, New York’s rookie shortstop is hitting .209/.299/.367 on the season. Friday’s home run was his fifth, and he’s hit all five at Yankee Stadium. He’s shown flashes of being an impact player, but the consistency is not there yet.

Lowe continued his breakout

Volpe gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the seventh and Oswaldo Cabrera followed with an insurance run single to make it 4-2. That lead lasted three batters. Harold Ramírez and Isaac Paredes opened the top of the eighth with singles against Michael King, then Josh Lowe blasted a three-run go-ahead home run to left field.

Lowe, a 2016 first-round pick, is having a breakout season. He’s up to .321/.374/.660 with nine home runs, and his eruption has contributed significantly to Tampa’s great start.

Rizzo won it on his bobblehead day

Friday was Anthony Rizzo bobblehead day at Yankee Stadium. More accurately, it was Anthony Rizzo Mandalorian bobblehead night. Check it out:

Rizzo started the scoring for the Yankees and he ended it as well. He answered Arozarena’s first inning solo home run with a solo homer of his own a half-inning later, then he gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead with a go-ahead two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth. This is the way:

The two-homer game upped Rizzo’s battling line to .301/.387/.500 on the season. With Judge missing time due to a hip issue, Rizzo has been New York’s best hitter this year, and it’s not particularly close either. He’s said he believes he’s benefited from the limit on extreme infield shifts, if not in the hit column then at least mentally. Either way, Rizzo has been fantastic this season.

Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta deserve a shoutout here as well. They recorded the final five outs — Holmes got two outs to strand runners at first and third in the eighth inning — to close out a much-needed win for the Yankees.

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