Who the heck were those guys?
Friday night’s misery at the plate begat a first inning Saturday afternoon that the Yankees hadn’t experienced in more than three decades.
They picked up seven straight singles off Corey Kluber to begin the inning, paving the way to six runs en route to a 10-3 victory over the Rays in front of 43,088 at the Stadium.
The Yankees pushed their AL East lead over the Rays back to 4 1⁄2 games. The victory also clinched the season series against Tampa Bay (10-8 going into Sunday’s finale), meaning that if the teams finish the regular season with the same record, the Yankees will own the tiebreaker.
Kluber, who pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees last season, had recorded a 1.08 ERA, 0.60 WHIP and .149 opponents’ batting average in four previous starts against the Yankees this season and had a 2.08 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 12 career starts against them. He lasted only two-thirds of an inning, the shortest outing of the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner’s 247-start career.
“I think that was big. Klubot has definitely been on his game this year when he’s faced the Yankees,” said Josh Donaldson, one of seven Yankees to finish with at least two hits. “Today we wanted to dictate the at-bats, and I felt like we did. Every game is big, let’s not short that. Obviously, the Rays are clipping on our heels, we know that.”
En route to picking up eight first-inning hits overall, the Yankees became the first team this season to have each of their first seven batters get a hit to open a game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The last time the Yankees pulled off the feat was Sept. 25, 1990, against the Orioles, when they had eight straight hits in an eight-run first inning.
Aaron Judge went 3-for-4 and reached base at least three times for the seventh straight game, the first time a Yankee has done that since Mickey Mantle in 1957.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 25th homer, a 394-foot shot off the leftfield foul pole in the eighth. The blast had an exit velocity of 101.9 mph, more than twice the speed of the 43.7-mph blooper pitch thrown by position player Christian Bethancourt.
“They all count. They all count,’’ Stanton said with a smile. “If I would have struck out, that counts too, so I’m fine with it.”
Stanton entered the game with four hits in 51 at-bats since July 16 and picked up his first extra-base hit since a home run in the All-Star Game. Of Judge and Stanton’s 1-2 punch at the top of the order, Aaron Boone said with a smile: “Two wrecking balls to start off.”
Stanton, Donaldson, Gleyber Torres, Oswaldo Cabrera, Miguel Andujar and Isiah Kiner-Falefa rounded out the group with two hits. Donaldson hit his 13th homer. The Yankees picked up 10 hits before the Rays could record their fifth out.
Jameson Taillon’s performance was overshadowed by the early outburst, but the righthander was mostly terrific in giving up three runs (Lou Trivino allowed two inherited runs to score in the eighth to make it 9-3) and six hits in 7 1⁄3 innings. Taillon walked one and struck out eight in improving to 13-4 with a 3.94 ERA.
“It was awesome, getting chills walking off,” Taillon said of the ovation that greeted him when he departed. “Big, big game here against a team that’s hot on our tail. The offense comes out, puts up six in the first. Made my job really easy and I kind of just got to cruise all day.”
Judge, again batting leadoff, singled to left to begin the first, went to third on Stanton’s single to right and scored on Torres’ single. Donaldson, activated earlier in the day from the paternity list, launched a single off the top of the wall in right, missing a three-run homer by inches. Cabrera lined a two-run single to right, Andujar’s RBI single to center made it 4-0 and Kiner-Falefa sent a ground shot off Kluber’s leg for hit No. 7.
It nearly became eight when Kyle Higashioka stung one up the middle, but second baseman Brandon Lowe made a tremendous diving backhand stop for a 4-6 force, with Cabrera scoring. After Marwin Gonzalez popped out, Judge made it a 2-for-2 first inning with an RBI single to left that gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead and ended Kluber’s afternoon. Lowe made another good play on Stanton’s grounder up the middle to end the inning.
“Awesome. Great at-bats from everyone just moving the line,” Boone said. “Seven straight there reaching base and then a great play on Higgy to put a stop [to it], and on G to end that inning. Just a collection of just really good at-bats, good two-strike at-bats. Certainly put us in a great spot.”