Maybe the Rays’ celebratory T-shirt will read something like this: “Revenge is a dish best served crushed,” complete with a cartoon depicting Mike Brosseau’s powerful cut at Aroldis Chapman’s 100.2 mile-an-hour fastball Friday night.
Brosseau’s home run helped send the Rays to the AL Championship Series and also gave them a bit of payback for that Sept. 1 contretemps in which Chapman threw heat near Brosseau’s head as part of the boiling blood between the two teams.
But fans of spectacle got something with Brosseau’s smash, too, beyond just a highlight. You don’t have to be a Rays fan to enjoy it, either.
This growing rivalry now has its towering on-field moment, one that’s much more meaningful than a bunch of guys wearing the equivalent of pajamas emptying the benches and acting tough. One team beat the other in a do-or-die Game 5 for a chance to play for the pennant. That’s big time.
So now it feels like we are in for quite a ride in the AL East division over the next few years. The Rays are loaded and smart. The Yankees are loaded and smart. And there’s real heat between two teams that don’t like each other. (Side note – we haven’t even brought up the entertaining, talented Blue Jays and the Red Sox won’t be this bad for long).
Now the name Mike Brosseau, undrafted free agent, will always hit Yankee fans of a certain age a certain way. Where were you when Brosseau took Chapman deep?
And Brosseau’s home run was just the capper the kind of game we hope to see over and over between these teams. Gerrit Cole was terrific in his first start ever on three days’ rest, allowing only a solo homer to Austin Meadows in 5.1 high-level innings. He struck out nine.
Tyler Glasnow, pitching on two days’ rest, gave the Rays 2.1 scoreless frames. Their bullpen – Kevin Cash’s “whole damn stable of guys who throw 98” – was terrific, too, allowing one run in 6.2 frames.
With the score knotted at 1 in the eighth, Brosseau squared off with Chapman, who had struck him out in Game 4. A little more than a month ago, the two were screaming at each other when the benches cleared.
Grudge match? Loser leaves the area? Heck, Chapman looks like he could be a wrestler, doesn’t he?
Brosseau fell behind, 0-2, but battled back. He fouled off four pitches, two fastballs and two sliders. His swings started looking sharper and shorter as the at-bat went on. Chapman clearly didn’t like a couple of the calls during the at-bat.
On the 10th pitch, Brosseau connected. The Rays bench went nuts. So did Brosseau. It’s one of the biggest home runs in Tampa Bay’s history.
“Hands down the greatest moment I’ve been a part of in baseball,” Cash said.
Chapman’s 100.2-mph heat is the hardest pitch ever hit for a homer in the posteason since MLB’s Statcast began recording such things in 2015. And the Yankees’ closer is the first pitcher to allow a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later more than once, according to Sarah Langs of MLB.com. He did it in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, too.
Brosseau said the right things in a postgame interview on the field with TBS: “No revenge. We put that in the past. We came here to move on.”
Chapman said something similar, noting, “I wasn’t thinking about that at all. That happened about a month ago. He put a good swing on that pitch. I have to give him credit.”
Well, we were thinking about it. We’re willing to bet plenty of others were, too. It’s all part of what’s turning into a gripping rivalry narrative.
It’s just getting started. Can’t wait to see what happens between the teams next year. Who knows – the Rays could have some new jewelry by then.