The Yankees were looking for a spark on Wednesday when they called up Estevan Florial and Oswaldo Cabrera from Triple-A and put them both in the lineup against Tampa Bay.
The youngsters went a combined 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. So the spark had to come from someone else.
It came from Josh Donaldson, who hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning as the Yankees shocked the Rays, 8-7, before 42,512 at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak with their MLB-best 13th walk-off win of the season.
Donaldson said there was “a release of joy and frustration” in the celebration at home plate after the Yankees’ offensive struggles of late. They had scored nine runs in the previous seven games and had lost 11 of their previous 13 games.
“That inning is who we are,” said Donaldson, who wore an ice pack on his right forearm after getting hit with a pitch in the fourth inning. “I don’t think the last two weeks is who we are.”
The Yankees rallied from a 4-0 sixth-inning deficit to tie the score when Anthony Rizzo led off the eighth with his 28th home run.
Then they fell behind 7-4 in the 10th as Aroldis Chapman allowed a three-run double by Francisco Mejia, a hard grounder inside the first-base line on an 0-and-2 pitch with two outs. Chapman (2-3), who walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches to load the bases and then recorded a strikeout for the second out, ended up the winning pitcher.
“For being the regular season, for being August, that one was special,” manager Aaron Boone said.
The game was delayed by 1:03 because of rain in the top of the seventh.
With ghost runner Aaron Judge on second, Gleyber Torres led off the bottom of the 10th with a line-drive single to right and Rizzo walked to load the bases.
The Rays left in lefthander Jalen Beeks (2-2) to face Donaldson, who looked bad on his first swing and then sent his 12th home run over the rightfield fence. He knew it was gone as soon as he hit it, flipping the bat. According to Elias, he became the 10th Yankee to hit a walk-off grand slam, with the most recent being Mark Teixeira on Sept. 28, 2016, against Boston.
Cabrera, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his big-league debut, said: “That was amazing. That was incredible.”
The 23-year-old also called it “the best day of my life.”
The Yankees were held to two hits in the first five innings by former teammate Corey Kluber as the Rays built a 4-0 lead.
Yandy Diaz drove in the first three runs with an RBI double in the third and a two-run double in the fifth off Domingo German. Ramirez homered against Lucas Luetge to lead off the sixth.
Torres got the Yankees on the board with a two-run home run off Kluber in the sixth. The Yankees had scored a total of one run in their previous three games.
The Yankees pulled to within 4-3 in the seventh when Judge walked on four pitches with the bases loaded, but Torres hit the next pitch up the middle for an inning-ending 4-4-3 double play, the Yankees’ MLB-worst 11th bases-loaded double play. Rizzo's homer got Torres off the hook.
Cabrera started at third base and batted sixth. Florial started in centerfield and hit eighth.
“I expect them to play and they’ll be in the mix,” Boone said. “And we’ll just see moving forward with matchups on a given day, but I would expect them to play a good amount.”
Florial and Cabrera were Nos. 90 and 95 in your scorecard, respectively. Florial, 24, who has been up four times since 2020, went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before getting removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh. He saved at least one run with a shoestring catch of Harold Ramirez's liner for the final out of the seventh.
Cabrera showed some flair, sporting a multi-colored necklace, and responded to his first Yankee Stadium Roll Call with a windmill wave to the Bleacher Creatures.
Tuesday evening already was special for Cabrera before he set foot in the clubhouse, as Scranton erased a nine-run deficit in a 10-9 victory. Shortly after entering the clubhouse, he and Florial were told they were being promoted to the Yankees.
“When they told me yesterday,” Cabrera said, “that was a perfect moment.”
Thanks to his new teammate, there was another one on Wednesday.
Said Donaldson, “There’s not, to me, a better feeling in the world than hitting a walk-off homer.”
With Owen O’Brien