THE BRONX – With first place in the American League East on the line, Gio Urshela stepped up to secure a walk-off win for the Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees put together a 3-run rally against Rays lefty José Alvarado where four batters hit a ball harder than 100 mph. Previously, Alvarado had allowed an average exit velocity of 83.1 mph – good for the top 2% in MLB.

The rally started with Luke Voit mashing a solo homer on the first pitch Alvarado threw on the evening. It was a massive shot into the back of the right-field bullpen.

Gary Sánchez followed with a single, and the Gleyber Torres got the Yankees set up after he battled out a 10-pitch at-bat and lined a double to left field.

Thairo Estrada, who pinch-ran for Sánchez, scored on a wild pitch during Cameron Maybin‘s pinch-hit at-bat. Three pitches later, Urshela caught up to a 99 mph sinker from Alvarado to send the Yankees and the Bronx faithful home happy.

Overshadowed in this comeback was a strong start from a fired-up CC Sabathia. We all know that he hates Tampa Bay, and even called them “punk-a– b–” while leaving the field in the sixth inning. It also looked like he yelled to the Yankees bench that he was “trying to hit his a–,” a reference to Austin Meadows. Of course, CC did start the year serving a 5-game suspension after retaliating when a Rays pitcher threw at Austin Romine‘s head.

The big fella went six strong, allowing just one earned run while scattering six hits. He walked one and struck out four. Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle combined for a scoreless seventh.

With Zack Britton unavailable due to usage, and Aroldis Chapman only available in the ninth in a save situation, Aaron Boone went to Chad Green in the 8th.

Some poor defense that won’t show up in the box score resulted in doubles for Daniel Robertson and Brandon Lowe that put the Rays ahead 2-1 at that point. Next, a single/E6 by Torres scored Lowe to put Tampa up 3-to-1 with the menacing combination of Diego Castillo and Alvarado looming.

Castillo did his job – Alvarado could not. The result was a changing of the guard in the first-place spot in the American League East.

Other Notes

  • Kendrys Morales hit his first Yankees homer. It was a shot into the suite-level down the right-field line.
  • Didi Gregorius is set to suit up in an extended spring training game Monday. That’s a huge step for the Yankees shortstop as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
  • Dellin Betances continues his throwing program as he works his way back from a right shoulder impingement and bone spur treatment.