Anthony Volpe plays small ball to ignite Yankees offense in win over Rays

Apr 4, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) in the dugout before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium.

BRONX, N.Y. - The Yankees came back to beat beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-8, on Saturday afternoon. And while Aaron Judge’s two home runs may get the headlines, it was the small ball by Anthony Volpe and others that helped them get over the hump.

With the team down 6-4 in the sixth, Volpe led off with a bunt single. The rookie shortstop has gotten off to a slow start to his career, batting just .210. But he has reached base safely in 10 of his last 13 starts, including Saturday, thanks to that bunt.

The Yankees offense was struggling to string together hits so Volpe used his speed to steal second, his 12th of the season. After two flyouts, Volpe stole third to pick up his 13th stolen base of the year -- a new Yankee record for successful stolen base attempts to start a career. He would then score on a Ryan Thompson wild pitch to cut the deficit to 6-5.

Volpe’s run electrified the 44,714 in attendance and his own dugout.

“That's an energy play,” manager Aaron Boone said after the game. “You get a really good baserunning play or something like that, that tends to, on some level, be a little more of an igniter.”

With two outs, Gleyber Torres walked and Judge hit his second home run of the game to put the Yankees ahead, 7-6.

“Especially with this team being a little banged up, we got some guys that are a little more versatile,” Judge said afterward. “We got to use that to our advantage, especially seeing Volpe out there, lay one down… You got to do little things especially if the offense isn't clicking at the right time, you got to do something a little different and we showed up today.”

Following the Judge homer, Anthony Rizzo, a left-handed pull hitter, laid down a bunt down the third-base side to get himself on base and keep the momentum going. Ultimately, Oswaldo Cabrera hit a bases-loaded single to score two, which turned out to be the difference in the game.

“With Volpe leading off and dropping the bunt down. It’s just exciting,” Rizzo said. “We talk about it in our meetings. If you have that in your bag of tricks, why not?”

When asked if his bunt was inspired by Volpe’s, the first baseman smiled and said, “I was definitely inspired by him.”

“I know it’s two outs and it’s against the grain there but I felt like the momentum of the game called for that,” he said. “The fans, the dugout, everyone was into it.”

“Those are plays that really get guys excited and I think even Riz was feeding off that,” Boone said. “They're an important piece not only within the game for Anthony [Volpe], but to have that in the bag. Teams have to respect that and that opens up the field for him.”

Despite his struggles at the plate, Volpe has handled the pressure of being the Yankees’ number one prospect and, to many, the heir apparent to Derek Jeter. While his numbers may not jump off the box score, his steadying presence, good defense and youthful exuberance has energized this Yankees lineup to be one win away from a series win over the vaunted Tampa Bay Rays.

Judge and Rizzo may hit the longball for this team, but it’s Volpe’s small ball that gets the Yankees offense going, and Saturday’s win was the perfect example of that.