The New York Yankees on Wednesday night in the Bronx appeared headed for another frustrating loss going into the bottom of the 10th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the top of the 10th, Aroldis Chapman walked a pair of batters to load the bases before striking out Jose Siri for the second out of the frame. Then a ground-ball double by Francisco Mejia cleared the bases and gave the Rays a 7-4 lead. Chapman recouped to get Yandy Diaz on a pop-up for the third out, but by that point the Rays had a 91.2 percent chance of handing the Yankees their fourth straight loss.
In the bottom half, however, reliever Jalen Beeks permitted a line-drive single from Gleyber Torres and then walked Anthony Rizzo. That plus automatic runner Aaron Judge meant a bases-loaded situation for Josh Donaldson. The right-handed-hitting Donaldson has endured uncharacteristic struggles against the opposite side this season, but he didn't miss on this 0-1 fastball at the top of the zone from Beeks:
That's an opposite-field shot that left the bat at 100.1 mph, traveled 349 feet -- more than enough to clear the short porch in right -- and gave the hosts an unlikely 8-7 win. That marked Donaldson's eighth career walk-off home run and his seventh career grand slam. It also put him in elite company as Yankees go:
Josh Donaldson hit the 10th walk-off grand slam in Yankees history in tonight's win.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 18, 2022
He becomes the 3rd Yankee to hit a walk-off grand slam with the team down 3 runs, all of them coming in extra innings. Babe Ruth did it in 1925, and Jason Giambi did it most recently in 2002. pic.twitter.com/WCYUcDxJRz
The 36-year-old third baseman hasn't quite been himself this season, as he's now slashing .223/.307/.391 for the year with 12 home runs in 97 games. His blast Wednesday night, though, rises above all of that.
This was a moment -- and most of all a win -- that the first-place Yankees badly needed. The Yanks were a robust 56-21 coming out of June, but since then they've gone just 17-24. More recently, they've gone 9-17 since the All-Star break and are now 4-11 for the month of August. Aaron Boone's club has a 10-game lead in the American League East, which makes them virtual locks to win the division, but they'll be judged on how deep they can make it into October (and November). On that front, it's been quite a while since the Yankees appeared to be on the same level as the Houston Astros, the other AL power this year.
Donaldson's unlikely game-winner doesn't change all that, but it does turn a likely loss into a win and give a struggling Yankees team a galvanizing moment that they badly needed. With the sweep at the hands of the Rays avoided, the Yankees will now host the Toronto Blue Jays for four and then welcome the crosstown Mets for two games. To the extent that there's any such thing as momentum in a sport like baseball, the Yankees will try to seize it as the September stretch drive looms.