On Monday, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays will continue their burgeoning rivalry in the American League Division Series. The Rays swept the Blue Jays and the Yankees swept Cleveland in the best-of-three Wild Card Series to advance. The ALDS will be played at Petco Park in San Diego.
"We're clearly the underdog now," Yankees manager Aaron Boone jokingly told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, on Thursday. "They're the big, bad No. 1 seed of the AL East."
The season series was very one-sided. The Rays went 8-2 against the Yankees during the regular season and outscored them 47-34 in the 10 games. That said, the postseason is a clean slate, and what happened in the regular season doesn't really matter now. First team to win three games wins the series.
Over the last few years the Yankees vs. Rays rivalry has grown very heated. There have been several benches-clearing incidents over the last four seasons and multiple suspensions as well. The Yankees and Rays very much do not like each other. Here's the history of their bad blood heading into the ALDS.
May 20, 2017: Andriese drills Judge
This seems like a convenient place to start. The current Yankees core emerged in 2017, when Aaron Judge had his historic rookie season and Gary Sanchez played his first full year in the big leagues. What was supposed to be a rebuilding year in New York finished with them advancing to Game 7 of the ALCS.
With the Yankees down 6-3 in the top of the fifth inning on May 20, Sanchez lifted a solo homer to center field, and Rays righty Matt Andriese followed by hitting the next batter (Matt Holliday) with a pitch. In the bottom of the fifth, Yankees reliever Tommy Layne retaliated by plunking Corey Dickerson, who took Masahiro Tanaka deep twice earlier in the game.
Andriese then responded by hitting Judge with his first pitch in the top of the sixth inning, earning him an ejection. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild were heated and later ejected as well.
"That's baseball," Judge told reporters, including Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, following the game. "They're going to get guys. I was the one that got hit and that was part of it. I was going to take my base, it's part of the game. I said, 'OK, take off my guard and go to first.' It was a good spot."
Andriese and Rays manager Kevin Cash gave the standard "it was a pitch that got away" defense when asked about it after the game, according to Kernan.
Sept. 28, 2018: 'That's for you, bitch'
The most memorable Yankees vs. Rays incident in recent years. The Yankees were up 7-0 in the fifth inning when CC Sabathia hit Jake Bauers in the hand with a pitch. Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge threw his first pitch of the next half-inning behind Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine's head, which fired up New York's dugout.
"I was so mad at seeing Ro get dropped like that,'' Boone told reporters, including George King of the New York Post, after the game. "My first concern was making sure he was OK.''
Sabathia responded by hitting Rays backup catcher Jesus Sucre with his first pitch of the next half-inning. He and Boone were immediately ejected and, as he walked off the field, Sabathia pointed at the Rays dugout and yelled "That's for you, bitch." (Sabathia later said he was yelling at the Rays in general and not a specific person.)
Kittredge did not duck questions about the intent of his pitch to Romine -- "It is what it is, I guess" he told reporters after the game -- and he was later suspended three games. Sabathia was suspended five games for throwing at Sucre.
This game was Sabathia's final start of the regular season and his contract included a $500,000 bonus for reaching 155 innings. He was ejected with 153 innings. Given the score (11-0 at the time of the ejection) and Sabathia's pitch count (55), there was a very good chance he'd throw the two innings needed to earn the bonus.
"I don't make decisions based on money, I guess,'' Sabathia told King. "It was the right thing to do (protecting my teammate)."
The Yankees, it should noted, paid Sabathia the $500,000 bonus anyway. "It was something that we did very private and weren't looking to publicize, and I'll just leave it at that," Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the Associated Press that December.
May 17, 2019: Sabathia throws at Meadows
Six days prior to this game, Rays righty Yonny Chirinos gave up a homer to DJ LeMahieu, then plunked the next batter (Luke Voit). That apparently led to Sabathia throwing inside to Austin Meadows on May 17 in retaliation.
"It's the same thing, hit a homer and they throw up and in. It's stupid,'' Sabathia told reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, after throwing at Meadows. Television cameras caught Sabathia saying "I was definitely trying to hit his ass" as he walked off the field following the inning.
"Honestly in the moment, I didn't think anything of it," Meadows told Topkin. "But now seeing that afterwards, obviously he was trying to (hit me) ... You know CC, he's been around a long time. He's a competitor. He obviously wanted to take a shot there, but it is what it is. Obviously we had a beef back and forth. It's part of the game honestly. Luckily I didn't get hit. But it is what it is.''
July 16, 2019: Sabathia and Garcia exchange words
Depending who you believe, this may have been a misunderstanding rather than the feud being rekindled. The Yankees and Rays were fighting for first place in the AL East last summer -- New York took a five-game lead into this game -- and they played eight intense games in a 14-day span at one point last July.
On July 16, Sabathia struck out Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia to end the sixth inning and said something as he exited the field. Garcia took exception and the two exchanged words, with television cameras catching Sabathia saying, "If I was talking to you, I'd be talking to you." The dugouts cleared and Sabathia had to be held back by his teammates.
"Honestly, I think it was a misunderstanding," Sabathia told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, after the game. "I wasn't talking to him. He looked up at me and said something, and it was on ... I was just yelling out, pumping myself up. He might have taken offense to it, but I am never going to back down. It is what it is."
"I didn't say anything," Garcia told Hoch. "I respect him. He's a good competitor, and it's fun to face him. I respect him, so I don't have anything to say. It was for no reason. He was trying to do his job, I was trying to do my job, so there's no problem at all."
There were no ejections and no further fireworks in the game after Sabathia and Garcia exchanged words.
Aug. 8, 2020: Rays buzz LeMahieu, Urshela
Sabathia retired this past offseason but he was a regular participant whenever the Yankees and Rays mixed it up. Kittredge has been involved multiple times as well. Back in August, he buzzed Gio Urshela and LeMahieu up and in a few innings after Diego Castillo came up and in on LeMahieu, forcing him to hit the deck.
The Yankees did not throw at anyone in retaliation but they made it clear they were not happy with getting pitched high and tight constantly. Boone and Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames were ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire because they felt the pitches up and in were intentional, and no warnings were issued.
"Having somebody throw at Romine a couple of years ago, you don't usually forget stuff like that," Judge told reporters, including NJ.com's Brendan Kuty, referring to Kittredge throwing behind Romine in 2018. "Then for (the Rays) to continue to throw up and in. We've got a lot of big hitters up there and they're going to throw in. But to miss that far up and in that many times, you're going to get a little barking from the dugout."
The next day, Tampa second baseman Brandon Lowe called the Yankees "childish" for yelling from the dugout. "It's pretty frustrating to have them think that you're not able to chirp and say anything back to them. They've been doing it the whole time and for us to not be able to do it back, it's a little childish," Lowe told Kuty.
Sept. 1, 2020: Chapman throws at Brosseau
The most recent Yankees vs. Rays incident was the most heated. Masahiro Tanaka hit Joey Wendle with a pitch in the first inning. Ryan Thompson backed LeMahieu off the plate in the fifth inning. Then, in the ninth, Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch over Mike Brosseau's head. Benches cleared after Brosseau struck out to end the game.
Chapman was suspended three games for throwing at Brosseau while Boone and the Cash were suspended one game each. After the game, Cash ripped the Yankees for "poor judgment (and) poor coaching." He also make a veiled threat to hit Yankees players. Here are his full comments, via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
"It's absolutely ridiculous," Cash said. "It was mishandled by the Yankees. Certainly the pitcher on the mound. It was mishandled by the umpires. They hit Joey Wendle intentionally in the first inning. It was clear as day. Chapman comes in, he throws three different balls up and in. I get it — they don't like being thrown up and in. But enough's enough. We're talking about a 100 mph fastball over a young man's head. It makes no sense.
"It's poor judgment. Poor coaching. It's just poor teaching, what they're doing, and what they're allowing to do. The chirping from the dugout.
"Somebody would have to tell me, go pull the numbers, who's hit who more? (The Yankees have hit more Rays, 19-14, in the three seasons under manager Aaron Boone.) I can assure you, other than three years ago, there hasn't been one pitch with intent from any of our guys, period. Somebody's got to be accountable.
"And the last thing I'll say on it is I've got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour. Period."
Chapman is appealing his suspension and the hearing is still pending -- he'll serve the suspension next year as a result -- so he has been eligible to play since the incident. The Yankees and Rays closed out their season series on Sept. 2, the day after Chapman threw at Brosseau, and there were no more fireworks. Well,.
Clearly, the Yankees and Rays do not like each other, and the bad blood dates back several years now. The postseason usually isn't when we see bad blood spill over, but it has happened in the past, and everyone will be on high alert should a game (or the entire series) become lopsided. That's when something wild could happen.