The way the Yankees have been hitting lately, their games have largely lacked drama because their lineup has not posed much threat of a comeback.
They made up for that in emphatic fashion Wednesday night.
After wiping out a four-run deficit to force extra innings and then falling behind by three runs in the top of the 10th, Josh Donaldson pulled the Yankees from the depths of despair with a walk-off grand slam for a stunning 8-7 win over the Rays in The Bronx.
“Just a great fight all night,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously [it’s] not easy for us right now, but we’re in the fight and we’ve just got to keep fighting. Great to see that level of at-bats to finish off a game when it looked like it was stripped from us.”
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and spared the Yankees (73-45) from a sweep by the Rays (62-54), who returned to 10 games back in second place of the AL East.
On a day that began with calling up Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial for a youthful injection to their lineup, the Yankees won for the third time in their last 14 games and showed signs of rediscovering their mojo.
With Aaron Judge the automatic runner on second base to start the bottom of the 10th, a Gleyber Torres single and an Anthony Rizzo walk against Rays reliever Jalen Beeks loaded the bases for Donaldson, who had been stuck in a 3-for-28 slump. He shot an 0-1 pitch to the opposite field and it landed in the short porch to set off a wild celebration.
“I definitely think that was probably a release of some joy and some frustration over the past couple weeks,” Donaldson said.
Aroldis Chapman lost the strike zone in the top of the 10th inning. He had come in with one out and the automatic runner on second base, then walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches.
Still, he was still one strike away from leaving the bases loaded with a 4-4 tie intact before Francisco Mejia grounded a bases-clearing double down the first-base line to put the Rays up 7-4.
“That’s one of those gut punches with what we’re going through, especially when it felt like Chappy was kind of righting the ship there,” Boone said. “But credit to the guys. It’s like, ‘Hey, let’s keep fighting.’ ”
In the eighth inning, Anthony Rizzo delivered the big swing the Yankees had previously been missing. He crushed a solo home run into the right-field seats off Rays lefty Brooks Raley to tie the score 4-4 an inning after the Yankees had squandered a quality chance to tie it or take the lead.
The homer snapped a 2-for-26 funk in which Rizzo had been mired since he missed five games with back spasms.
After a 63-minute rain delay in the top of the seventh — and a nice shoestring grab by Florial in center field to keep the Rays’ lead at 4-2 shortly after play resumed — the Yankees started to come alive in the bottom of the inning.
Jose Trevino led off with a broken-bat single and DJ LeMahieu, in his first appearance since Saturday because of a toe injury, followed with a pinch-hit single on the first pitch he faced. One out later, Andrew Benintendi walked to load the bases.
The Rays brought in reliever Pete Fairbanks, who promptly walked Aaron Judge on four pitches to bring the Yankees within 4-3.
But Torres, who had crushed a two-run homer off Corey Kluber earlier in the game to start the Yankees’ comeback, came up next and on the first pitch hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Yankees had Torres’ back, though, just as they had Chapman’s a few innings later.
It was too early to tell whether the wild win could fully snap the Yankees out of their recent malaise, but it was a start.
“That was a special one,” Boone said, “that hopefully we can look back on fondly.”