New York Giants Giancarlo Stanton
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees stunned the rival Tampa Bay Rays with a barrage of home runs in Game 1 of the Division Series.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays may be playing a postseason series in San Diego, but that didn’t take away from their intense rivalry.

Gerrit Cole pitched six innings and Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, and Giancarlo Stanton had home runs as the Yankees scored five runs in the ninth inning before winning 9-3.

Offense wins games

The Bronx Bombers made Rays ace Blake Snell work all game, refusing to bite on his curveball and showing incredible patience. Snell allowed four runs on six hits and surrendered three home runs, but not before New York took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off Aaron Hicks’ sac fly.

Per usual, Tampa Bay did not go down quietly. Randy Arozarena hit an equalizer off Cole to dead center to make it 1-1, and fans strapped in for an intense evening. Clint Frazier, starting in left field against the lefty Snell, broke the tie in the third inning when he took a fastball into the second deck in left.

An inning later, Cole ran into early trouble. Arozarena, who had three hits on the night, singled. Ji-Man Choi then continued his career dominance of Cole with an opposite-field two-run home run to put the Rays up 3-2.

But the New York Yankees were far from done. Kyle Higashioka led off the fifth with a game-tying solo home run. Two batters later, Aaron Judge lined a bullet to left to put the Yankees 4-3 and in the lead for good.

The Rays rallied again when Cole ran into a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth. After intentionally walking Choi to load the bases with two outs, he struck out Manuel Margot to preserve the lead. After a flawless sixth, the Yankee bullpen held firm going into the ninth inning.

Facing Rays righty John Curtiss, the Yankees got two runners on before Hicks laced an RBI single to make the score 5-3. Tyler Wade then worked a walk to load the bases, and Giancarlo Stanton blew the game open with a blast to center.

Luis Cessa then worked a scoreless ninth to seal the win.

Pitching wins championships

Gerrit Cole didn’t have his best stuff in Game 1, but was still solid as he struck out eight over six innings. More importantly, manager Aaron Boone managed the bullpen perfectly compared to his overcompensation in Game 2 of the Wild Card round.

Chad Green got two quick outs before issuing a walk to Brandon Lowe, and then got the dangerous Arozarena to line out to Gleyber Torres. Zack Britton worked around some missed pitches in the eighth and got Willy Adames to strike out with the tying run on first.

Boone will have to be careful with no days off in the best-of-five round, but he should be pleased with his bullpen’s performance so far.

Quietly clutch

Aaron Hicks had three hits against the Rays to raise his postseason batting average to .344 and continues to work great at-bats. The switch-hitting centerfielder ranked third in the majors with a BB% of 19.8% and is just seeing the ball better. If he’s getting into a groove out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup, that spells trouble for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Looking to Game 2

The New York Yankees will hand the ball to rookie phenom Deivi Garcia (3-2, 4.98 ERA) in Game 2 as they look to take a 2-0 lead in the series. The Tampa Bay Rays will look to even things up with tall righty Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08).

The first pitch will be at approximately 8:10 p.m. ET on TBS.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.