TAMPA, Fla. - Gosuke Katoh hit a grand slam and the Tampa Yankees (10-9, 49-40) scored eight runs in the first three innings before fending off a late push by the Dunedin Blue Jays (10-11, 44-46) to win the rubber game, 8-7, on Friday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The T-Yanks scored early and often against Dunedin starter Jordan Romano.
Tampa loaded the bases with nobody out in the first and scored, one out later, on a two-run single by Tim Lynch . Kyle Holder followed suit with an RBI single into center, giving the T-Yanks a 3-0 lead.
Dunedin answered with a pair of runs off RHP Taylor Widener in the second by collecting four singles, including RBI hits by Michael De La Cruz and Connor Panas.
It was déjà vu for Romano in the bottom of the second as the Yankees loaded the bags, again, with no outs. This time, Katoh crushed a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall for his second-career grand slam (7/16/15 with Rookie-level Pulaski). Katoh's fifth home run of the season gave Tampa a 7-2 advantage.
Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. both singled to open the third. A wild pitch by Widener pushed both runners into scoring position and Bichette scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Kelly. Widener retired the next two batters to limit the damage.
Austin Aune reached on an error by Kelly, advanced to second on a wild pitch by Romano and scored on a base hit by Daniel Barrios as Tampa added a run in the third.
Romano (L, 4-5) allowed a season-high eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits in three innings, including his first allowed home run. The right-hander walked one, struck out three and threw 47 of 71 pitches for strikes.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and Bichette flied out to right field. Aune made the catch and fired a laser to the plate to catch Mike Reeves trying to score. Catcher Sharif Othaman applied the tag and the double play ended the inning.
Widener permitted three earned runs on eight hits in four innings, walking one while striking out five and throwing 46 of 73 pitches for strikes in a no-decision.
Dunedin chipped away with a pair of unearned runs off LHP Caleb Frare in the sixth. De La Cruz reached on an error at third base by Barrios and Reeves walked. Later, D.J. Davis drew a two-out walk, loading the bases. A wild pitch advanced the runners and Bichette legged out an RBI infield single, drawing a wild throw by Holder at shortstop. The error allowed Davis to score, cutting the lead to 8-5.
Stephen Tarpley (W, 2-0) got Guerrero Jr. to ground out, ending the sixth. The southpaw surrendered a pair of singles to begin the seventh, but followed by retiring the final six batters he faced in his two and a third innings of work.
Guerrero walked and Cavan Biggio doubled to bring the tying run to the plate for the Blue Jays against RHP Andrew Schwaab in the ninth. A groundout by Eduard Pinto and a single by De La Cruz cut the lead to 8-7 before Schwaab (SV, 5) got Reeves to fly out, ending the game.
Katoh (2-for-4, HR, 4RBI, 2R) tied a career-high with 4 RBI. Barrios (2-for-3, BB, RBI, R) logged his first multi-hit game, first RBI and first run scored since joining Tampa. Jeff Hendrix (2-for-5, 2R) is batting .364 (8-for-22) during a five-game hitting streak.
Up next, the T-Yanks remain home to host a three-game series versus the Florida Fire Frogs. RHP Dillon Tate (3-0, 2.66 ERA) will start against RHP Andres Santiago (2-4, 6.51 ERA) in the opener on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for the Christmas in July Toy Run game, presented by Full Throttle Magazine, Harley Davidson of Tampa and Fran Haasch Law.
On Salute to Service Members Saturday, all Military members receive a free upper reserved ticket with a valid ID. Select T-Yanks will sign autographs on the concourse from 5:40 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. For tickets and promotional information, call (813) 673-3055 or visit www.tybaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.