Josh Donaldson knew the ball left the stadium as soon as it left his racquet. And the New York Yankees needed this one.
Down 7-4 in the 10th inning, they faced a sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays and their fourth straight loss when Donaldson got on the plate in the extra inning. But when his line-drive grand slam left the park, Donaldson knew the win meant more to the Yankees overall amid their toughest stretch of the season. The 8-7 walk-off win was just their third win this month after losing 11 games since early August.
“The boys were excited and I think when we were talking about how the game was going and how the back and forth was going there, we had our backs to the wall,” Donaldson said. “There was a release of some joy and frustration.”
The Rays took the lead in the 10th inning when Francisco Mejia hit two outs on a heavy base double, hitting Roman Quinn, Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls in the process. Amid the Yankees’ recent struggles with their late-inning relief and with Clay Holmes placed on the injured list early Wednesday after his worst stretch of the season, Aroldis Chapman, who was closer to aggravating those troubles and two earned runs, appeared to be exacerbating them to allow a hit in two. third of an inning.
Even as New York’s odds took a big tumble — down to 9.1% in the bottom half of the 10th, according to FanGraphs — the Yankees believed they could still claw the win.
“We never lose spirit in the dugout after we’ve lost,” said third baseman Oswaldo Cabrera, who made his major league debut on Wednesday. “That was the key for today.”
While Aaron Judge was on second base early in the inning, Gleyber Torres threw a line drive single into right field before a four-pitch walk to first baseman Anthony Rizzo Donaldson, the batter-designate, with loaded bases on the plate brought. On a 0-1 count, Donaldson took a pitch high into the zone and threw Rays pitcher Jalen Beeks’ 96.6 mph fastball over the fence, sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy.
“Just a great fight all night. Obviously it wasn’t easy for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’re in the fight and we’re fighting on and it’s great to see that level of at-bat when it seemed like it was being taken from us.”
Given the Yankees’ troubles, there were calls from the fanbase to bench Donaldson to give other players more time in the lineup. So far in 2022, Donaldson has had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .223/.307/.391 with 12 homers in 97 games with two years and $50 million remaining on his contract. Despite the noise, Boone stuck by Donaldson, a decision that paid off for Wednesday night at least.
“Huge. He’s been grinding a lot, especially lately, trying to get on the track,” Boone said. “He’s a great player and a great hitter and I continue to believe it’s going to show up here over a period of time and that’s as big as you can get it right there.”
While the win didn’t end the Yankees’ streak of losing their last five series — to the Rays, Red Sox, Cardinals and Mariners (twice) — the evening offered at least a temporary breath of fresh air as New York went along in dramatic fashion a win that seemed a long way off at the end of the top of the 10th.
“Obviously given the stretch we’re going it was a great win, no question, against a really good team who are hard to score against, especially when you’re down like we are,” Boone said.
The key for the Yankees will be taking the win and turning it into momentum for a team that has looked like a shell of itself since the All-Star break.
“We know we are a really good team. We’re struggling right now and we’re going through it,” Boone said. “At its core, we know this is a confident group. We have to focus and grind and get through it and that was something special that I hope we can look back on fondly.”
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34416855/josh-donaldson-delivers-new-york-yankees-grand-slam-walk-10th-inning Josh Donaldson delivers for New York Yankees with grand slam walk-off in 10th inning