The Yankees had to scramble Thursday, but it didn’t matter. Anthony Rizzo homered off Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win that completed a three-game sweep of their division rivals.
The Yankees (47-16) have won seven straight and a new record 14 straight at the new Stadium. It was the Bombers’ eighth walk-off win of the season. They take a 12-game lead over the Rays in the American League East and 10 over the Blue Jays, who they will play this weekend.
The Yankees had to scratch Luis Severino before Thursday’s series finale against the Rays because of illness. Clarke Schmidt got the call to make the emergency spot start.
Schmidt gave the Yankees three solid innings. The right-hander gave up one hit, walked one and struck out five over three innings of work. He walked Ji-Man Choi and then gave up a single to Yandy Diaz in the first inning. He retired the last six batters he faced.
Not bad for a few hours’ notice, which is all Schmidt got.
“We started playing with it a little bit last night if [Severino] wasn’t able to go, which way did we want to go and we kind of settled on Clarke. But I actually didn’t tell him last night, I just didn’t want to mess with anything, especially since we didn’t know anything for sure yet,” Aaron Boone said. “So I gave him a call early this afternoon and let him know. He’s ready to roll and fired up. I just feel like he’s the right guy to get things off for us.”
It was another example of the different ways the Yankees can win. They have the pitching depth here, and in the minors, that allows them to absorb losing one of their starters and handle the ripple effect it will have on their bullpen.
Part of that has been the development of young pitchers like Schmidt.
He had made one start last season, allowing five runs, two earned, on four hits over 4.1 innings pitched in a September loss to the Mets. The 26-year-old right-hander has made 11 appearances out of the bullpen this season, pitching to a 3.26 ERA. He’s struck out 15 and walked 10 in 19.1 innings pitched.
“I think Clark’s made huge steps this year. The strike-throwing has gotten significantly better. The stuff is there,” Boone said. “His sliders become a weapon for him. He’s gotten a good sinker, the four-seamer and the big curveball. But the sliders become a real factor for him this year.
“He continues to get better as a strike-thrower and for the most part, pitched really, really well for us and in some big spots. So excited to see him going out there. … Hopefully, he can get us potentially a time through the lineup or whatever. And we’ll see where we are.”
Ryan Weber was called up to fill in the bullpen with Schmidt making the start. The right-hander allowed a solo home run to Francisco Mejia in the fifth and that was it over 3.2 innings. He struck out one and did not walk a batter.
Weber’s 3.2 innings were a huge help Thursday night as the Yankees are in a stretch of 20 straight games without a day off, meaning they have to be careful about how this affects their bullpen as they head into Toronto for a weekend series beginning Friday.
Ron Marinaccio pitched a perfect 1.1 innings and Michael King worked around a walk to Choi in the ninth.
“You gotta get a little more creative. We’re in a stretch right now where we don’t have a day off for a while. So you got to be mindful of that and get a little creative and, obviously, we’re going to play tomorrow and the next day and the next day. So you gotta keep those things in mind,” Boone said. “So you got to piece it together a little bit tonight, which will be a little more challenging, but also feel great about where we’re at as a team and as a pitching staff that we’re equipped to go out and not only handle it but still handle it with a lot of expectations.”
Severino had chills and a fever Wednesday night. The Bombers went for more extensive testing and put him on the COVID injured list before the game.
“He’s just on the list now. Last night, he got sick, had a fever, chills and all that. Doing a lot better today,” Boone said. “I think his original rapid stuff was negative but we’ll have a better idea probably sometime tonight what the testing says.”