Clint Frazier hit a game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the 11th inning after making a game-saving catch in the eighth, and the slumping Yankees beat the rival Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3, Tuesday night.
The righty-hitting Frazier turned on a slider from right-hander Andrew Kittredge (5-1) and stood at the plate to admire the drive, capping a tight finish in which both teams came up short on potential rallies.
One of those stalled efforts came in the eighth, when Frazier dove and needed every inch of his mitt to catch Joey Wendle’s soft-hit liner to strand two.
The Yankees ended a four-game slide and beat Tampa Bay in the Bronx for the second time in 11 tries since the start of last season. The A.L. East-leading Rays remained four and a half games ahead of the Yankees with two games left in this four-game series.
Tampa Bay had held the Yankees to three or fewer runs in seven straight matchups and won nine straight against division foes.
The Yankees offense has struggled so mightily, hitting coach Marcus Thames joked before the game he has bags under his eyes from a series of sleepless nights. With just six hits, this was hardly a clean breakthrough, but the team also drew seven walks to eke out a tight win over a division rival.
After slowly jogging around the bases on his homer, Frazier tossed his helmet like a pull-up jumper as he neared teammates waiting at home plate, then jumped with them after his second career walk-off homer. His other came as a rookie in 2017.
Frazier’s homer lifted his batting average to .185 during a difficult season. It was only his fifth homer and first since May 16.
“It’s been a long season,” Frazier said. “But the people in here believe in me.”
Luis Cessa (1-0) quickly worked through a perfect top of the 11th, the last of seven Yankees pitchers to combine on a three-hitter. The bullpen accounted for six hitless innings.
Blue Jays Leave Open Possibility of Return to Toronto
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro believes there’s a chance the team could finally return home to Toronto at some point this season, while cautioning the decision hinges on when Canada will loosen its strict border regulations.
Shapiro declined to get into specifics on Tuesday by saying talks between the Blue Jays and Canadian health officials have become more frequent and “certainly more positive” in recent weeks.
In referring to an “underlying level of optimism” connected to more Canadians receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, Shapiro stressed the most significant challenge remains the border being closed to nonessential travel.
“Just focus on the border, recognizing anything around that is going to be a challenge — not impossible — but a challenge,” he said. “But the only clarity exists around the border being open.”
Shapiro spoke before the Blue Jays’ 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, which marked Toronto’s return to playing “home” games at their Class AAA affiliate’s ballpark in Buffalo, N.Y. The Blue Jays made the shift north to escape the heat and humidity in Florida, after spending the first two months of the season playing out of their spring training site in Dunedin.
The Blue Jays have not played in Toronto since closing the 2019 season with an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 29.
Last year, the Blue Jays were forced into a nomadic existence south of the border after Canadian health officials barred teams from crossing the border.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his nation won’t be rushed into reopening its border, which has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020. Canadians returning to their homeland are required to immediately spend 14 days in self-quarantine.
The Blue Jays are currently committed to playing in Buffalo through July 4, which closes a 10-game homestand. Toronto isn’t scheduled to play a home game again until opening a three-game series against Texas on July 16.
One change from last year is the Blue Jays will be playing in front of fans in Buffalo after fans were barred from attending games. New York state is allowing about 6,600 fans — representing 35 percent capacity — to attend games with number expanding to 45 percent in two weeks.
“We’d gladly endure hardship and burden to get home,” Shapiro said.
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