Even when one of their workhorse starters can’t take the ball at the last minute, the depth of the Yankees’ pitching staff continues to be up to the task.
After Luis Severino’s designation to the COVID-19 list necessitated a collective bullpen effort, spot starter Clarke Schmidt and Triple-A call-up Ryan Weber combined for 6 ²/₃ innings of one-run ball before Anthony Rizzo’s walk-off homer in the ninth helped the rolling Yanks execute a three-game sweep of the rival Rays with a 2-1 win at the Stadium.
Ron Marinaccio and Michael King also provided scoreless relief efforts before Rizzo belted a game-winning homer to right off Shawn Armstrong with one out. The first-place Yanks’ 14th win in 15 games improved their record to 47-16 overall and to 29-7 in The Bronx for a 10-game lead over second-place Toronto in the AL East.
“I think if you’re gonna put yourself in position to win a division title you probably have to play well at home and certainly we’ve done that here to start the season,” manager Aaron Boone said before the game. “We want to play well wherever we are … but I think we’ve certainly had a home-field advantage.
“I think the ballpark plays to our favor and some of our strengths. I know our guys love playing here. I think coupled with it being the Yankees and Yankee Stadium, there’s always that energy and that feeling of walking into this place.”
Boone said Severino felt ill after Wednesday’s game, but the manager didn’t inform Schmidt of his start until Thursday afternoon when it was determined that the scheduled starter was ticketed for the COVID-19 list despite not testing positive for the coronavirus.
“I just didn’t want to mess with anything, especially since we didn’t know anything for sure yet, so I gave him a call early this afternoon and let him know,” Boone said. “He’s ready to roll, fired up. I just feel like he’s the right guy to get things off for us tonight.”
Clarke allowed one run and walked one in his three scoreless innings. The righty hit Boone’s stated target of 50 pitches with his final out of the third, a strikeout of Randy Arozarena for the pitcher’s fifth punch-out of the game.
“I think Clarke has made huge steps this year. His strike throwing has gotten significantly better,” Boone said. “His stuff is there. His slider’s become a weapon for him.”
Weber, who had made 63 big-league appearances since 2015 with five teams, was summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Severino on the roster. The righty posted another zero in the fourth inning before Francisco Mejia reached him for a two-out solo homer to right in the fifth for a 1-0 Tampa lead.
The Yanks didn’t manage their first hit against the first three Rays pitchers — beginning with two innings from opener Jalen Beeks — until Aaron Hicks’ single to right against Brooks Raley in the fifth.
Aaron Judge walked and stole second in the fourth, but Giancarlo Stanton made the third out of the inning on a liner to second baseman Vidal Brujan.
Weber kept the score within a run through the visiting sixth, and the Yanks drew even in the bottom half. Righty Ryan Thompson relieved Raley with two outs and promptly walked DJ LeMahieu and Judge before Rizzo’s RBI single to center forged a 1-1 tie.
Weber came back out for his fourth inning of work in the seventh and recorded two more outs before Boone summoned Marinaccio. He completed the frame and then added a spotless eighth before King fanned two in the ninth, which ended with a tumbling catch by Marwin Gonzalez in right field to maintain the 1-1 knot.