CC Sabathia and Luke Voit never forget. The Yankees’ lefty was fired up last weekend when Voit got plunked by Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos, but he was taken out of that game before he had a chance to do anything more than bark at the pitcher.
Friday, Sabathia made Rays’ designated hitter Austin Meadows dance and dodge two 92-mph fastballs in the fifth inning. On replays, Sabathia appeared to yell “Yeah, I was trying to hit his ass,” as he walked back to the Yankees dugout at the end of the inning.
Sabathia missed his target. Voit’s revenge, however, was a ninth-inning home run started a dramatic rally that ended with Gio Urshela’s walkoff single that gave the Yankees a 4-3 win at the Stadium.
The win was the fourth straight for the Yankees (27-16) and gave them the lead in the American League East, passing the Rays, who had held first place since March 31. The Rays (26-16) are now a half-game back.
It was the Yankees’ third walkoff win of the season, but Urshela’s first walkoff hit.
After Voit’s home run, Gary Sanchez followed with a single. Gleyber Torres doubled and the Rays chose to walk Clint Frazier to load the bases. Thairo Estrada, running for Sanchez, scored on a passed ball.
Urshela ended it with the single to deep right-center field.
That got Chad Green, who was making his second appearance since returning from a demotion to the minors, off the hook. On Sunday, against these same Rays and after a 43-minute power-outage delay, Green struck out the side for a perfect ninth inning.
Friday, the struggling right-hander had a tougher go of it.
After giving up a one-out double to Daniel Robertson in the eighth inning, he allowed an RBI double from Brandon Lowe.
The insurance run came on Gleyber Torres’ throwing error on Kevin Kiermaier’s ground ball that allowed Lowe to score.
The Yankees, Rays and Sabathia have a history of bad blood.
They had four players hit in the series last weekend. Last season, Sabathia was ejected, suspended and fined for hitting Jesus Sucre at Tropicana Field in his final regular-season start. After hitting him, Sabathia swore at the Rays’ dugout, letting them — and MLB — that his throw was intentional.
Saturday night, when Voit was hit on the shoulder, the big lefty was on his feet in a split second, barking at Yonny Chirinos and the Rays. Voit has been hit five times this season, second only to the Royals’ Alex Gordon’s eight.
After the game, the 38-year old let it be known that he was pissed.
“What are you doing? Let’s go. We don’t want to get into that again,” Sabathia said of Voit getting hit. “We did that last year.”
The Yankees have been hit 19 times this season, the fourth most in the AL. The Rays’ hitters have been plunked 17 times this season.
When they were getting pitches to hit on Friday night, the Yankees’ bats were quiet until the ninth.
Kendrys Morales homered off Ryne Stanek in the second inning. The switch-hitter, whom the Yankees acquired on Tuesday night, hit a 97-mph fastball deep into the second tier of right field.
Voit got a small measure of revenge Friday. He singled and doubled off Chirinos, the right-handed long man who had plunked him in the shoulder with a 95-mph fastball right last weekend.
He then led off the bottom of the ninth with his 11th home run of the season, off Jose Alvarado.
By then, Sabathia was just a very interested spectator after he gave the Yankees his longest start of the year to date.
The big lefty was sharp Friday night. He held the Rays to one run, a Willy Adames fourth-inning, leadoff home run. He did not walk a batter and struck out three over six innings. Adam Ottavino came in and walked a batter and struck out one in the seventh, and Tommy Kahnle was brought in to face Meadows in his third at-bat of the night.