The clock struck midnight in the Bronx and Josh Donaldson hit a second pitch fastball to the right field seats that went for a walk-off grand slam home run. The Yankees won an 8-7 ballgame over Tampa Bay in 10-innings.
Except this was now a 12 AM Thursday home run, perhaps a hit that could have turned around a Yankees team that lately has not been accustomed to winning games like this. It was a ballgame that resembled so much of a Yankees team and their first half of the season accomplishments.
But there was that sense of something different at Yankee Stadium and this resembled a team that had a Major League leading 12 walk-off wins. It has been difficult to find a walk-off and come from behind win, because the Yankees have not won many ball games the past five weeks.
Many of the 42,512 fans that remained, after an hour rain delay, knew the reeling Yankees did something special.
The Yankees won a ballgame that many believe they had to win, after losing six of their last seven, and 11 of their last 12. The Rays were inching a game closer. They were down seven in the loss column to a Yankees team that had a commanding 14-game AL East division lead in mid-July.
The Yankees seemed to have those better at bats and when Donaldson hit that home run, as the entire Yankees dugout surrounded him at home plate, there was a sense this was a game that turned things around.
Manager Aaron Boone said this win was special, more so because the Yankees avoided a series sweep, and matching also their largest comeback of the season after trailing by four runs.
“We know we are a very good team struggling now,” Boone said. “It was a good victory against a very good team. Proud of these guys.”
Boone said it’s hard to keep grinding and basically that is what this is all about now in mid-August. The Yankees built a large cushion in the standings because of their ability to win many ballgames like this one in the first half.
They needed this win because Tampa Bay had won four of the last five and eight of their last 13 games to inch closer to the division leaders. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Blue Jays, who are playing better baseball, visit the Bronx for four games beginning tonight.
This is a division lead the Yankees feel they are comfortable with. However, when the hits are not falling, when the runs are not scored, when wins are hard to find, there has to be a concern.
To Donaldson, this home run was special and not because he became the third Yankee to be in company with Babe Ruth and Jason Giambi in hitting an “Ultimate”(game winning) grand slam home run. It was special because the homer was hit with the Yankees trailing by three runs in extra innings.
“We were able to kind of come back there with our backs against the wall. I definitely think there was some release of some joy and some frustration over the past couple of weeks for sure.”
A home run and win for the Yankees could provide the turnaround they needed. Donaldson said there is no better feeling in the world than hitting a walk-off home run.
And there were those few positive signs in the lineup with a Gleyber Torres two-run homer in the sixth inning, an Aaron Judge bases-loaded walk in the seventh that got the Yankees within a run, and a game-tying Anthony Rizzo solo home run in the eighth inning.
DJ LeMahieu made a pinch hit appearance with a single in the seventh and is likely to be back in the lineup tonight, another good sign for the Yankees to turn this around.
Yes, the Yankees made contact at the plate. The pitching has not been a concern during this slide. For 4.2 innings, Domingo German gave up 3-runs.
The bullpen took over. With one out in the 10th, Aroldis Chapman loaded the bases with two walks leading to Francisco Mejia slicing a fastball to the right field line for a three-run double. So, Chapman had another minor setback in attempts to get him right.
However, the comeback and Donaldson grand slam had a different feel. The Yankees have not been able to take in a win like this and it’s been too long. Wins like this can spark a team and the Yankees feel a little different about themselves when they left the ballpark as they welcome the Blue Jays for their next series in the Bronx.
Oswaldo Cabrera, the newcomer who made his Major League debut after a call-up from Scranton, went 0-for-4. He said the win and being a part of this was the biggest day of his career.
But the Yankees can only hope this was the beginning of that turnaround for their season that once made them look so dominant as the best team in baseball.
Rich Mancuso [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube. Like, Comment, Subscribe