Yankees make statement in ALDS Game 1 win over Rays after explosive ninth inning

MLB: ALDS-New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Oct 5, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) is congratulated by third baseman Gio Urshela (29) after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning in game one of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What began as a neck-and-neck, fight to the finish turned into a massive 9-3 statement victory for the New York Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS on Monday night at Petco Park in San Diego.

Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton again proved his postseason worth by smacking a game-sealing grand slam – one that made a definitive opening statement against the rivalrous Rays, who held an 8-2 regular-season record over the Yanks.

Alongside Stanton’s late heroics was a Yankees batting order that worked in aggressive and consistent unison that many have long awaited from them all season — overshadowing a pitcher’s duel that saw New York’s Gerrit Cole and Tampa’s Blake Snell produce for much of their respective outings.

The Yankees struck in the first inning after outfielder Aaron Hicks sent a sec fly to deep left-center, scoring second baseman DJ LeMahieu from third to give the Bombers an early 1-0 lead.

It was the first first-inning run Snell had allowed during the abbreviated 2020 season.

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena quickly tied the game with a solo home run to centerfield off Cole in the bottom of the first inning.

The game of run-tag continued when Yanks outfielder Clint Frazier responded with a massive solo homer of his own off Snell in the third inning, putting the Yankees back on top 2-1.

Frasier batted again in a two-out, bases-loaded scenario in the fourth – but Snell struck him out to end the inning with the score intact.

New York’s lead was short-lived as Rays first baseman and former Yankee Ji-Man Choi gave the Rays a 3-2 lead advantage an opposite-field two-run homer off Cole in the bottom of the frame.

The Yankees were fast to strike back when catcher Kyle Higashioka delivered his first truly clutch playoff moment with a game-tying home run, soon followed by outfielder Aaron Judge leaving the yard to put the Bombers up 4-3 through four and a half played.

The Rays blew their golden opportunity with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth after the Yankees intentionally walked Choi, setting up Cole to strike out outfielder Manuel Margot on a 100-mph fastball.

Righty sidearm reliever Ryan Thompson relieved Snell to start the sixth as Brett Gardner pinch-hit for Frazier in a four-batter, nothing doing frame.

Cole’s night was done shortly after as Chad Green got the call in the seventh. The Yankees’ ace put up eight strikeouts, six hits, and the three earned runs in his second postseason start with his new club.

In dire need of insurance runs, the Yankees blew things open in the ninth inning. Higashioka singled and LeMahieu drew a walk against righty closer John Curtiss to start the inning, which set up Hicks to knock in a run off a line-drive single to right.

Tyler Wade walked to load the bases with one out, setting up Stanton’s big fly:

The Yankees re-loaded the bases against postseason and MLB debuting lefty Shane McClanahan, but LeMahieu grounded out to end the inning.

Righty Luis Cessa was called on to close out Game 1, which he did in no sweat to seal the 9-3 win.

That explosive and clutch Monday night proved to be a historic one for the Yankees bats as well.

The Yankees and Rays will play the second of the best-of-five series on Tuesday night at 8:07 p.m. where Deivi Garcia will take the hill against Tyler Glasnow.

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