NEW YORK – The first leadoff, walk-off sacrifice fly in major league history put the New York Yankees back in commanding position for a playoff berth with just over two weeks left in the regular season.
Yes, that's right, Luke Voit LED OFF the 10th inning with a game-ending sacrifice fly.
“It's 2020, man. Things are weird, and you got to take advantage of what opportunities you get,” Voit said after the Yankees beat Baltimore 2-1 Saturday to extend their winning streak to four.
Thank this year's rule calling for extra innings to start with a runner on second base. DJ LeMahieu, who made New York's last out of the ninth, went to second and advanced when Hunter Harvey (0-2) bounced his first pitch off the mitt of catcher Pedro Severino to the backstop.
Voit, hitting in shadows that extended to just in front of the mound, worked the count to 2-2, fouled off three pitches and hit a 99-mph fastball to center field. Cedric Mullins made a backhand grab 335 feet from the plate and didn't bother to throw as LeMahieu trotted home leisurely.
Voit, among the major league leaders with 37 RBIs, is used to the extra-inning runner rule.
“Playing in the minors for four years, we have that same thing," he said.
Max Muncy of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit the only previous leadoff sacrifice fly in the majors, in the 10th on Aug. 15, but that was in the top half of the inning at Anaheim following Chris Taylor's stolen base. The Dodgers hung on for a 6-5 win.
New York started the shortened season 16-6, plummeted with a 5-16 funk and now is on its longest winning streak since taking six in a row from Aug. 11-17.
“Sometimes what separates good and great teams is you’ve got to be able to grind through those tough times,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
A day after sweeping a doubleheader from Baltimore, New York (25-21) opened a 4 1/2-game lead over the Orioles and Detroit Tigers (both 20-25) for the American League’s eighth and final playoff berth and remained a half-game behind Toronto (25-20) for second place in the AL East. After losing three of four at Camden Yards last weekend, the Yankees have outscored the Orioles 18-2 in this series.
“We just chased way too much outside the strike zone,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “That’s why we’re streaky.”
New York won despite going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and making a season-high three errors.
Jonathan Holder (2-0) combined with Jordan Montgomery, Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman on a four-hitter. Baltimore had a runner on third with one out in the 10th before Mullins lined to second baseman Tyler Wade with the infield in, and Hanser Alberto flied out.
Montgomery struck out a career-high nine, allowing three hits and an unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. Concentrating on not rushing his delivery, Mongtomery got five swings and misses in the first inning. That was two more than during his entire outing Monday against Toronto, when eight of 18 batters reached base against him.
This is the 27-year-old left-hander's first full season following Tommy John surgery in June 2018.
“I’m still getting better, so it’s encouraging to be putting together some good games and kind of figuring out where I need to be each game,” he said.
Baltimore tied the score in the sixth after Alberto singled leading off and took second when left fielder Brett Gardner bobbled the ball for an error. Alberto tagged up on a flyout and scored when, with the infield in, Ryan Mountcastle hit a pop to short right-center that glanced off the glove of second baseman Thairo Estrada for a single. Estrada backtracked for the ball rather than sprinting after it.
New York had gone ahead in the first when LeMahieu led off with his 200th double, a drive off the wall in left-center, and scored on Clint Frazier’s sacrifice fly.
Orioles starter Dean Kremer allowed four hits in five innings and struck out seven after beating the Yankees in his big league debut last weekend by giving up one run and one hit over six innings. A 24-year-old right-hander born in Stockton, California, Kremer has dual citizenship and pitched for Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He became the first Israeli to play in the major leagues.
With bushy hair protruding from the sides and back of his cap, Kremer had a high pitch count but kept the Yankees off balance with a mix of 29 fastballs at up to 95.8 mph, 27 curves, 24 sinkers and 19 cutters.
"They tried to eliminate my curveball as best as they could," Kremer said. “They did a pretty good job.”
Chapman walked awkwardly toward first when Renato Núñez flied to shallow right field starting the ninth, prompting a mound visit from Boone and an athletic trainer. Chapman said he was OK, then laughed as he spoke with catcher Gary Sánchez,
“Mother Nature calls sometimes,” Boone said.
Orioles: INF Dilson Herrera cleared waivers and was assigned outright to the alternate training site. OF Mason Williams was designated for assignment after Friday’s doubleheader.
Yankees: 3B Gio Urshela (right elbow bone spur) took batting practice, fielded grounders and is likely to be activated Tuesday, according to Boone. ... OFs Aaron Judge (strained right calf) and Giancarlo Stanton (strained left hamstring) were to head to Scranton this weekend and could be activated next weekend.
LHP J.A. Happ (1-2, 4.31 ERA) starts Sunday’s series finale for the Yankees against LHP John Means (1-3, 6.58 ERA). Happ lost Tuesday against Toronto despite allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings and striking out a season-high 10.
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