New York Yankees' Brett Gardner Walks Off Tampa Again, 5-4 (Highlights)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 29: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees celebrates with teammates after driving in the winning run in the ninth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on July 29, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 5-4. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Some masterful managing by Joe Girardi and more Brett Gardner heroics lead to the New York Yankees walking off the Tampa Bay Rays for the second time in three games.

  • New York Yankees 5(56-46)
  • Tampa Bay Rays 4(53-52)
  • W: Aroldis Chapman(4-1, 3.03 ERA)
  • L: Brad Boxberger(2-3, 4.82 ERA)
  • AL, Final, 9, Box Score
  • Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi showed why he continues to hold the reins in Yankee Universe. He pulled every card correctly and at the right time as his team took Game 3 of this four-game series against Tampa Bay.

The game was originally billed as a battle of lefties: Caleb Smith for the Yankees and Blake Snell for the Rays.

For the second straight start, however, Smith was incapable of pitching out of the fourth inning. With that, Girardi was forced to use that great bullpen of his and did so to perfection as the Yankees locked down their third straight series victory.

Back & Forth

It didn’t take long for Tampa to hit the boards off the rookie Smith; and by not long, I’m talking the first batter on the first pitch of the game. Journeyman outfielder Peter Bourjos took a Smith meatball and deposited it into the bullpen for a leadoff solo shot to give Tampa an early 1-0 lead.

Similarly, the Bombers wasted little time tying the game as they struck for a run in the bottom of the second inning.

After Gary Sanchez led off the frame with a ground-rule double and advanced to third on a Matt Holliday ground out, the white hot Didi Gregorius smoked a fly ball to center for a sacrifice fly that scored Sanchez to pull the Bombers even at one apiece.

The play of note in the top of the third that deserves the highlight was not the run that scored to give the Rays a one-run lead, but rather the ensuing play that saved who knows how many runs.

Smith found himself in trouble as he loaded the bases full of Rays with just one out.

After Lucas Duda plated Bourjos from third on a sac fly, Smith got Trevor Plouffe to hit a dribbler to Todd Frazier. Frazier bare-handed the ball and chucked a one-hopper to first baseman Garrett Cooper, who made a tremendous scoop to end the inning.

Sticking to the back-and-forth theme for this afternoon’s contest, Sanchez took Snell deep to left in the bottom of the fourth for a solo shot that pulled the Yankees back even at 2-2. The long ball was Sanchez’s 16th home run of the season. Logan Morrison was unavailable for comment.

Just when it seemed like Adam Warren was settling in after taking over for the ineffective Smith, the righty served up a solo shot in the top of the fifth to Steven Souza Jr. that gave Tampa yet another one run lead at 3-2.

Perfect Pinch-Hit Pull

Girardi’s magnificent managerial moves were not limited to his use of the bullpen, but also with the selection of a pinch-hitter in a key spot in the ball game.

After Holliday reached base with a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth, Snell was lifted for right-handed reliever Sergio Romo. With the right-handed hitting Cooper slotted to hit next, Girardi sent up the switch-hitter Chase Headley.

And did the move ever pan out perfectly, as Headley hammered an opposite field missile over the wall in left to put the Yankees ahead for the first time all afternoon, 4-3.

The blast was Headley’s first long ball in 124 at-bats, which was evident by the perma-grin plastered all over Headley’s face following his trip around the bases.

Tie Game? Yes In-Duda

Just as the game was cruising along and Girardi seemingly making every right call, former Mets first baseman Lucas Duda ruined all the fun. He took David Robertson deep in the top of the eighth for a solo shot that knotted the game back up at four.

Duda’s 19th homer of the season was also his second in as many games with his new team.

Walk Me Off

After Aroldis Chapman worked a scoreless top of the ninth, the bottom-third of the Yankees order set the table for walk-off hero Brett Gardner.

Headley drew an impressive eight-pitch leadoff walk and was replaced at first base by pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury immediately stole second, and after Todd Frazier was hit by an errant Brad Boxberger pitch, Ronald Torreyes loaded the bases with a perfectly placed bunt single.

With nobody out and the lefty Gardner set to hit, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Boxberger for newly acquired lefty Dan Jennings. Gardner immediately shot a ground ball up the middle for a single that plated Ellsbury from third for a 5-4 victory.

The Yankees have now won six straight and sit a full game ahead of Boston atop the American League East.

What’s Next

The Bombers will look to finish off the four-game sweep of the Rays and make it seven straight Sunday afternoon.

New York sends rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery (7-5, 3.92 ERA) to the hill tomorrow as it tries to cap off a rare perfect week. Tampa counters with a rookie of their own, right-hander Jacob Faria (5-1, 2.67 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET and can be seen on the YES Network and heard on WFAN 660 AM.

After losing my eyesight as a result of a brain tumor in 1996, baseball and music ushered me back to reality and led me to who I am today. I turned my love of the game and for my New York Yankees into writing for the best company in sports: Elite Sports NY. i use my Psychology & Music degree from James Madison University to articulate my thoughts in my writing and use my vocal/piano skills to professionally play music in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.