“It felt like holding a bear,” said New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious when he described his efforts to hold back his 300-pound teammate, C.C. Sabathia, Tuesday night in the Bronx.

After Sabathia struck out Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia to strand two runners during the sixth inning, the 38–year old outfielder shouted toward Sabathia’s direction while also pointing his finger at the future Hall of Famer. Sabathia, not taking kindly to Garcia’s antics, quickly rebutted with his own shouting and and began marching toward Garcia until Gregorious managed to intercept him. Although Gracia and Sabathia never threw punches, benches and bullpens from both teams emptied out as players and coaches flooded onto the field looking to diffuse the situation.

“I wasn’t talking to him. He looked up at me and said something, and it was on,” said Sabathia after the game. “I was just yelling out, kind of pumping myself up. He might have took offense to it. It is what it is. I’m never going to back down.”


Although pitching and picking up wins for the Yankees remains Sabathia’s primary intent every night when ascending to the hill, New York frequently looks to Sabathia during affairs such as this to stand in as the team’s emotional leader, as he often finds himself at the center of scuffles, either defending himself or his teammates. Sabathia famously illustrated his effectiveness while playing this role last year against the Rays as well by choosing to throw at and hit Jesus Sucre. Sabathia wasretaliating from an earlier incident where a Rays pitcher beaned his teammate, Austin Romine, in the head. The plunk cost Sabathia a $500,000 contract bonus, but Sabathia clearly cared not, simply prioritizing his teammate’s defense over the money.

Two innings after courageously holding back Sabathia, Gregorious played the hero role once more, this time at the plate as he smashed a Grand Slam, putting the Yankees ahead 8–3. Aaron Judge contributed to the team’s explosive eighth inning as well, preceding Gregorious’s round tripper by clubbing a two–run homer himself, which allowed the Yankees to move into the lead. After the fireworks, Zach Britton closed the door on Tampa Bay in the ninth as the Yankees evened the series against the Rays. The game helped the Yankees throw a necessary punch back after a derailing loss the night before, where New York stood just one strike away from closing the game out before Travis d’Arnuad saw his third at–bat end with a ball in the seats, homering and gifting his team a late-game lead.

After this series concludes, Sabathia and the Yankees won’t see Tampa Bay again for a while. The two rivals will await a chance to add another chapter to their rivalry until this season’s sunset, as the teams are scheduled to clash for just two more games in September.

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