Yankees vs. Rays score: Mike Brosseau carries Tampa Bay to ALCS with late home run on Aroldis Chapman

The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 2-1 in Friday’s Game 5 of the American League Division Series. As a result, the Rays secured the victory in the best-of-five series, as well as a trip to the AL Championship Series, where they’ll meet the Houston Astros.

The Rays fell behind the Yankees early, when Aaron Judge delivered a solo home run to give New York a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Yet it was the Rays who struck next and struck last. Austin Meadows hit a game-tying home run against Gerrit Cole in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Brosseau then launched a go-ahead homer in the bottom of the eighth to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead, which they would hold onto for the victory.

This is Tampa Bay’s first trip to the ALCS since 2008, when they won the pennant. Here are four takeaways from Game 5.

1. Brosseau got the ultimate revenge

On Sept. 1, Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch over Mike Brosseau’s head as part of the ongoing bad blood between the Yankees and Rays. Brosseau got some nice revenge the next day, when he swatted two home runs, but he got the ultimate revenge in Game 5, when he hit a go-ahead home run against Chapman in the eighth inning. It proved to be the series winner.

“In the past,” Brosseau said during his postgame television interview when asked about the bad blood with Chapman. A classy response, to be sure. You know he was loving it on the inside though.

Brosseau’s at-bat leading into the home run was incredible. He fell behind in the count 0-2, worked it back full, fouled away four two-strike pitches, then went deep on the 10th pitch. Needless to say, the dugout exploded. Brosseau’s homer is already on the short list of the biggest home runs in Rays franchise history, right alongside Evan Longoria’s walk-off blast in Game 162 in 2-11.

2. The Rays went backwards with their bullpen 

Going into Game 5, I assumed Blake Snell would follow Tyler Glasnow out of the bullpen. Glasnow started Game 2 on Tuesday — he is only the second pitcher to start a postseason game on two days rest in the last 60 years (Derek Lowe did it in the 2004 ALCS) — and he was a bit wild, but he got through the lineup one time without allowing a run. 

From there, Rays manager Kevin Cash worked backwards with his bullpen rather than go to Snell. Nick Anderson, Tampa’s nominal closer, was the first man out of the bullpen. He surrendered a solo home run to Aaron Judge but was otherwise effective across 2 2/3 innings. Up next was Pete Fairbanks, typically Anderson’s setup man. He pitched around danger in the sixth and tossed a 1-2-3 seventh as well. 

Hard-throwing righty Diego Castillo, another setup man, was the last man out of the bullpen. He threw a scoreless eighth inning before Brosseau’s homer and a 1-2-3 ninth inning after Brosseau’s homer. The Rays went from their best reliever to their second best reliever to their third best reliever, and no Yankee hitter faced the same pitcher twice. Tampa bullpened them right out of the postseason.

Nick Anderson

2 2/3

2

1

1

0

2

Pete Fairbanks

2

1

0

0

1

3

Diego Castillo

2

0

0

0

1

4

Total

6 2/3

3

1

1

2

9

Judge’s home run, by the way, was his third in a winner-take-all postseason game. He also went deep in the 2017 and 2018 Wild Card Games. Judge joins Moose Skowron as the only players in history to hit home runs in three different winner-take-all postseason games.

3. Cole was an animal

Yankees manager Aaron Boone called Gerrit Cole an “animal” prior to Game 5 and he looked the part Friday. On short rest, Cole struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings, and held the Rays to one run on an Austin Meadows solo homer. He is the first pitcher in franchise history to strike out at least eight batters in three straight postseason games. 

Truth be told, the Rays had Cole on the ropes early. He walked two and hit a batter in the zero first inning, and he went to a 3-0 count on Joey Wendle with the bases full. Cole battled back to strike out Wendle and escape the game. It was an enormous missed opportunity for Tampa.   

Cole struck out Meadows to begin the game for his 100th career postseason strikeout. He got there in 79 innings, the fastest in history. Clayton Kershaw previously held the record at 80 innings. Also, Cole threw 11 pitches at 99 mph or better in Game 5, his highest total in a game this season. 

The Yankees lost Game 5 but it was not Cole’s fault. He was dominant. Cole emptied the tank on short rest in elimination game. It’s what aces do. His teammates didn’t give him enough help thought.

4. There was sooo much velocity in this game

Thanks to Cole and Tampa’s “stable of guys that throw 98,” as Cash calls them, this game featured nothing but electric arms and huge velocity. The average — average — fastball in Game 5 was 97.2 mph, according to MLB.com’s Mike Petriello. It is the hardest fastball game on record since pitch-tracking began in 2008. Good gravy. This was baseball in 2020 to the extreme.

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