The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees engaged in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel to finish out the 2021 regular season, and it was Aaron Judge‘s infield hit in the bottom of the ninth that provided the only run of the contest, as the Yankees clinched a postseason berth with a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Both pitching staffs made sure there were zeroes abound on the scoreboard, but while the Rays pitchers did so rather efficiently — Gleyber Torres‘ fourth-inning single was New York’s only hit through the first eight innings — the Yankees pitchers were able to work around a lot of traffic on the basepaths. Tampa Bay was able to get a runner to third base in the third, fourth, and eighth innings, but each time was unable to get the runner in. Tampa Bay finished the day 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and stranded nine runners on base for the game.
Meanwhile, Michael Wacha allowed just Torres’ single through the first five innings, walking one and striking out a pair in a 56-pitch outing. JT Chargois, Collin McHugh, and David Robertson also gave the Rays hitless innings of relief.
But after Aroldis Chapman put up a zero in the ninth, Rougned Odor led off the bottom of the ninth with a bloop single to center. Torres followed with deep fly ball to center, that pinch-runner Tyler Wade was able to tag up and move to second on, and Anthony Rizzo‘s base hit moved him to third, with the forstbaseman able to move up to second on the throw in to the plate.
Kevin Cash then brought in Andrew Kittredge, and with first base open, decided to pitch to Aaron Judge. Kittredge got ahead of Judge 1-2, but the right fielder got a slider to put in play, dfelecting it off the pitcher’s glove, and the throw from Brandon Lowe home was too late to get Wade.
Individually, Randy Arozarena did steal his 20th base of the season in the eighth inning after singling off Jonathan Loaisiga. The outfielder is just the third Rays player to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in the same season, joining B.J. Upton (2007, 2011, 2012) and Tommy Pham (2019) as the only players in franchise history to reach that mark. However, Lowe was unable to reach the 40-homer or 100-RBI mark, falling one shy on each with a 1-for-3 day.
Tampa Bay finishes the regular season with a record of 100-62, best in franchise history, and will now wait for the winner of the American League Wild Card game between Boston and New York in the American League Division Series, which will begin Thursday at Tropicana Field.