Mike Brosseau said he wasn’t seeking revenge against hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman, just the chance to keep playing.
He ended up getting both.
Brosseau hit a dramatic home run off Chapman with one out in the eighth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Friday night in the decisive Game 5 to reach the AL Championship Series for the first time in 12 seasons.
The first career postseason homer for the 26-year-old utilityman came after a 10-pitch at-bat against the Yankees’ vaunted, hard-throwing closer, who entered in the seventh inning. Brosseau drove a 100 mph fastball into the left field seats at Petco Park for the Rays’ third hit.
Brosseau and Chapman have a history: Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball near Brosseau’s head Sept. 1 in the ninth inning of a Rays’ 5-3 victory. Chapman likely had nothing against Brosseau personally, but the pitch was an apparent escalation of a feud between the AL East rivals, and it prompted Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash’s infamous declaration that he has “a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour.”
Brosseau pumped his fists and hollered “Yes!” as he began his trot. When he returned to the dugout, there were celebratory body slams and high fives with his teammates.
“No revenge, We put that in the past,” said Brosseau, who pinch-hit for Ji-Man Choi in the sixth and and then stayed in at first base. “We came here to win the series. We came here to move on, to do what we do best, that’s play our game.”
Tampa Bay had a $29 million payroll, 28th out of the 30 major league teams, this coronavirus-shortened season, while the Yankees had the third-largest, $84 million. The Rays dominated the regular-season series with the Yankees 8-2 and were the AL’s top-seed.
About an hour after the game ended, a number of Rays came back out to the field and dugout with beverages and cigars and are trolled the Yankees by playing Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York,” played at Yankee Stadium after victories, and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys.
After winning the AL Division Series 3-2, Tampa Bay will stay in San Diego to face the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting Sunday night. The Rays are in the ALCS for the first time since they beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games in 2008 before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
Tampa Bay was eliminated by the Astros in the ALDS last year.
“They’ve been the team to beat the last few years,” Brosseau said. “They knocked us out last year so it will be fun to face them again.”
Brosseau was an unlikely hero in a season that has had many twists and turns due to the coronavirus pandemic. After he went undrafted, the Rays signed him in June 2016 for $1,000.
“That was very, like, storybook,” Tyler Glasnow said. “That was crazy. Just to go out there and have that long of an at-bat, battle that long with all the history we’ve had, that’s just nuts. I still can’t even comprehend it. ”
Brosseau’s drive went 375 feet and just cleared the wall.
“Brosseau is such a good dude,” Glasnow added. “It’s just so awesome that it was him. He’s grinded all year long, kind of had sparing playing time; such a big moment like that was just phenomenal. It’s crazy. I blacked out. I was like, ‘No. No way.’ … With the crack off the bat, there was kind of a delay and everyone didn’t even know how to comprehend it. It was pretty unbelievable. That was probably the most memorable baseball moment I’ve ever been a part of.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Brosseau “just pulled off a great at-bat, and that’s the beauty sometimes of sport. You get in these situations with two great teams and two great competitors going at it. He got him on a great at-bat. Chappie continued to make pitches, and Brosseau put a great at-bat on him and snuck it out of here.”
Chapman is the only pitcher in postseason history to allow a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later with his team facing elimination multiple times. He gave up José Altuve’s game-ending drive in Game 6 of last year’s ALCS.
“I thought I made some good pitches in that moment,” Chapman said through a translator. “I think it was a fastball to the middle in. He put good contact on it.”
All-Star Austin Meadows also homered for the Rays, connecting off ace Gerrit Cole in the fifth. Aaron Judge tried to make a leaping catch but jammed his head into a padded overhang.
“I got to get up there and rob that one,” the 6-foot-7 right fielder said.
The Rays had 11 homers in the series and the Yankees 10.
Judged homered in the fourth. The Yankees also had only three hits.
Cole, starting on short rest for the first time in his major league career, struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings.
Winner Diego Castillo followed a hitless eighth with a 1-2-3 ninth, and the celebration was on for the Rays, who dominated the regular-season series against the Yankees 8-2. They took a 2-1 lead in the ALDS before the Yankees forced the deciding fifth game.
Cole, pitching about 100 miles south of where he grew up a Yankees fan in Newport Beach, held Tampa Bay to one hit and one run in 5 1/3 innings while striking out nine and walking two. After winning Game 1 on Monday night, he pitched on short rest for the first time in his major league career.
“It’s big disappointment,” said Cole, who signed a $324 million, nine-year free agent deal in the offseason. “Not the way we drew it up. Really hard-fought series that sometimes can make it tougher to swallow, too.”
Cole had pitched 4 2/3 hitless, scoreless innings before Meadows homered to right field to tie the game at 1, and Cole reacted like he knew it was gone. It was Meadows’ second homer this series.
Cole left after 37-year-old left fielder Brett Gardner leaped to rob Randy Arozarena of a home run leading off the sixth. Arozarena, who homered in each of the first three games of the series, watched the ball while taking a few steps before Gardner made his sixth career homer-robbing catch. Cole pointed at Gardner in appreciation.
Cole showed emotion throughout his outing, including hollering and glaring at the Rays’ dugout after striking out Joey Wendle to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the first.
Judge homered into the right-field porch off Nick Anderson leading off the fourth. It was his second of the series and 10th for the Yankees. It was Judge’s third in a winner-take-all game, tying Bill Skowron, Didi Gregorius and Yogi Berra for the most in Yankees postseason history.
Glasnow, who grew up just north of Los Angeles, started and went 2 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings, with two strikeouts and two walks. He struck out 10 in Game 2, a 7-4 Rays win.
New York seemed stunned,
“I hate this feeling,” said Yankees first baseman Luke Voit, who led the majors in homers but hit .111 in the series (2 for18). “It’s the third year in a row going through it.”
By fanning Meadows opening the first, Cole became the fastest to 100 postseason strikeouts in 79 innings. The previous fastest was Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 80 innings.
The Yankees wore a patch with 16 on their left sleeve in memory of Whitey Ford, the Hall of Fame pitcher who died Thursday night at 91. Additionally, there was a moment of silence before the national anthem for Ford, whose 236 wins are the most in Yankees history.