Seconds after Rougned Odor reached first base on a single to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, Tyler Wade climbed the steps of the Yankees dugout.
It was time to go to work.
Wade pinch ran for Odor and used his speed and smarts to make his way around the bases to eventually score the winning run in a 1-0 win over the Rays that clinched the Yankees a wild card on Sunday in The Bronx.
“No one can catch him,” said Aaron Judge, who drove in Wade with the walk-off single.
As he took over at first for Odor, Wade was thinking about the Rays’ battery — the left-handed Josh Fleming, who is quick to the plate, on the mound and Mike Zunino catching — that would make it hard to steal a base. So when Gleyber Torres hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in center field, Wade went back to first base to tag up and hustled safely into second.
Anthony Rizzo came up next and lined a single to right field. Wade took off for third, and had his sights set on scoring before third-base coach Phil Nevin put up the stop sign. Right fielder Randy Arozarena had scooped up the ball before Wade touched third, and with one out, Nevin did not risk sending Wade.
The utilityman finally got that chance minutes later, when Judge ripped a line drive off the glove of pitcher Andrew Kittredge. Wade was running on contact and the throw from second baseman Brandon Lowe, who collected the ricochet, was too late.
“My mindset was get a good jump,” Wade said. “Infield was in. I knew if he elevated it, I was going to score.”
Wade dove in safely, then went to celebrate with Judge, who was getting mobbed in the outfield.
“He’s been a big part of this team,” Judge said. “He gives you that speed element, able to bunt, put the ball in play, can play five different positions basically. When you have a guy like that, that you can pull off the bench and steal a base, come in and play shortstop, play third, play second, play some outfield — that’s what you need on a team to be versatile.”