NEW YORK (AP) — Travis d’Arnaud was down to his last strike. And so were the Tampa Bay Rays, trailing by two runs with two on and two outs in the ninth inning against All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
D’Arnaud hacked at the next pitch, fouling off a 100 mph heater. Then another. After two tempting balls in the dirt, he faced a full count.
Chapman came back with a slider high and away — and d’Arnaud sent it high and away.
The catcher hit his third home run of the game, a go-ahead drive that sailed over leaping right fielder Aaron Judge for a startling shot that helped the Rays overcome their Yankee Stadium woes to beat New York 5-4 on Monday night.
“Coolest night ever,” d’Arnaud said.
D’Arnaud’s three-run homer kept drifting, landing just one or two rows deep beyond the short right field porch. Several teammates spilled from the dugout to congratulate d’Arnaud while a crowd of 43,173 fell silent.
“Trav just put the team on his back,” Rays starter Blake Snell said.
The 30-year-old backstop tied a Tampa Ray record for homers in a game. It has been done five times, most recently by Evan Longoria in 2012.
This, after he almost missed his ride to the Bronx earlier in the afternoon.
“I thought the bus was at 2:30 and it was 1:58,” d’Arnaud said. “And I was walking in, asking if the bus was at 2:30, and they said no. So I just walked right on the bus.”
The Yankees had been 49-0 this season when leading after eight innings. The Rays won for just the second time in seven games in the Bronx this year and cut New York’s lead in the AL East to five games.
Andrew Kittredge (1-0) got the win despite allowing Edwin Encarnacion’s second homer of the game, a two-run shot in the eighth that put the Yankees up 4-2. Oliver Drake got one out for his first save, throwing a called third strike past Luke Voit with a runner on.
Chapman (2-2) gave up a pair of singles to begin the ninth, struck out the next two batters and then was tagged for d’Arnaud’s ninth homer of the season.
“It’s a little difficult, you know, when you don’t think he gets it all, ends up getting the homer, but that’s the way the game is,” Chapman said through a translator.
D’Arnaud has had a tumultuous season, having been released by the Mets, signed by the Dodgers and traded to the Rays five days later.
But on this night, none of that mattered as he became the first catcher to hit three homers in a game against the Yankees. He said it was the only time in his career — high school, Little League, et al — he’s hit three homers in one game.
The once highly touted prospect led off the game with a homer to right field on a fastball over the middle of the plate. In the third, he hit another to a similar location on the same pitch from James Paxton — a fastball down the middle.
D’Arnaud had never batted leadoff before this season, but the innovative Rays have slotted him there seven times. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances, with two walks. It was the fourth multihomer game of d’Arnaud’s career and second this season.
Tampa Bay had lost 14 straight series openers at Yankee Stadium.
Encarnacion, who began the day batting just .139 since being acquired from Seattle last month, hit a solo shot in the fourth off Snell. After hooking a fastball foul, the slugger drove the next pitch in the same direction a few feet inside the foul pole.
Gio Urshela made it 2-all with a home run in the seventh. Encarnacion hit his 27th of the season, good for second in the AL.
Snell bounced back from his last start at Yankee Stadium, in which the AL Cy Young Award winner gave up six runs while getting only one out last month. The left-hander tossed five innings of one-run ball.
“Bullpen held it down. Travis, I think he had an OK game,” Snell said with a smile. “So that was cool to see.”
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (forearm) will be shut down for another two weeks, manager Kevin Cash said. Glasnow is 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA, but hasn’t pitched since May 10. He had been eligible to come off the injured list last week, but Cash said the team is being cautious with the 25-year-old righty.
Yankees: Ace starter Luis Severino and reliever Dellin Betances, both out all season with lat injuries that followed shoulder trouble, began their throwing programs. They each made 25 tosses from 60 feet in right field before the game. There is no timetable for either All-Star right-hander to return, but both expect to pitch in the majors this season.
CC Sabathia (5-4) will start his fifth game against the Rays this season on Tuesday night. He is 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in those outings. The Rays had yet to announce a starter.
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