Mike Brosseau smashed a solo home run in the eighth inning Friday to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees and advance the Rays in the Major League Baseball playoffs.
Brosseau bashed a 100-mph fastball off Yankees ace closing reliever Aroldis Chapman — the same pitcher who struck Brosseau in the head with a fastball last month — to deliver the decisive blow.
“No revenge,” Brosseau said. “We put that in the past. We came here to do what we do and move on.”
Tampa Bay captured the best-of-five second-round series 3-2 and moved on to the best-of-seven American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros that begins on Sunday.
It’s only the second time the Rays have reached the ALCS since their 1998 debut. They advanced to the 2008 World Series but lost to Philadelphia.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves will meet in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series that begins Monday.
The NL and AL champions will meet in the World Series starting October 20 in Arlington, Texas.
Aaron Judge smacked a solo homer in the fourth inning to put the Yankees ahead but Austin Meadows blasted his own solo homer in the fifth to lift the Rays level at 1-1.
Both teams dug into the bullpen in the later innings as the game, and two seasons, hung on a knife’s edge.
Brosseau, unselected in the MLB Draft in a snub by all clubs before making the Rays roster last year, entered as a pinch-hitter for Tampa Bay’s Choi Ji-man in the sixth inning and remained in the contest as the first baseman.
That set the stage for an emotional rematch in the eighth against Chapman, who struck Brosseau with a 101-mph fastball in a regular season game last month.
Then, Chapman went on to strike out the American to complete a 5-3 win but both teams ran from the dugouts for a post-game confrontation before cooler heads prevailed.
This time, Brosseau fouled off a pair of 3-ball, 2-strike pitches to stay at the plate, then pounced on the 10th throw he faced from Chapman and smashed his first playoff homer over the left-field wall into the empty stands in San Diego, fans banned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was just trying to get a runner on and get the next guy up, but we knew hits weren’t coming very often,” Brosseau said. “I went up trying to find the barrel (of the bat) and luckily I got one. It felt good off the bat.”
Rays teammate Tyler Glasnow became emotional as he watched Brosseau battle Chapman and then smash the decisive homer.
“He did an amazing job fouling off those pitches,” Glasnow said. “To see him go out and do that, it’s hard to put into words. It was unbelievable.”
Tampa Bay pitcher Diego Castillo, who struck out four, sent down the Yankees in order in the ninth to complete the victory and seal the series triumph.
The Yankees wore the number 16 on the left sleeve of each jersey in tribute to legendary pitcher Whitey Ford, who died Thursday night at age 91 while watching New York in the playoffs. The left-hander is the winningest pitcher in Yankees history and played on six World Series champions.