Rays’ 9th inning rally not enough to stop Yankees in series opener
DJ LeMahieu hit a tiebreaking two-run single and Gary Sanchez had a long three-run homer in the 10th inning, and the AL East-leading Yankees overcome a ninth-inning blown save by closer Aroldis Chapman to beat the second-place Rays 8-4 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.
“I think we just have confidence we’re going to win, no matter what the circumstance,” LeMahieu said. “That doesn’t happen too often to Chappy, but it was great the way we responded.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 25th homer for the Yankees, who are 15-2 since June 15 and have a season-high, 7 ½-game lead over the Rays.
Tampa Bay, which led the division as late as games through June 14, is 2-8 against the Yankees this season.
“Walks. Leadoff walk,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Then the rest come. We should know by now that those walks come back and they get us.”
LeMahieu is 9 for 11 with 20 RBIs with the bases loaded.
Sanchez hit his 24th homer off Pagan, an estimated 461-foot drive into the second deck in left field.
“That was maybe the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” LeMahieu said. “I don’t know what the StatCast on it was, but it’s 500 feet, I don’t care what anybody says.”
The Rays rallied from a two-run deficit in ninth to tie it at 3-all against Chapman (2-1), who opened the ninth by walking Nate Lowe on four pitches.
“Tough time out there,” Chapman said through a translator. “Facing that last hitter I was able to lock in and execute pitches.”
It was Chapman’s third blown save in 26 save opportunities and the first runs Tampa Bay has scored off the left-hander in 20 career appearances.
Encarnacion made it 3-1 on his solo shot in the seventh off Yonny Chirinos, who allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings.
Yankees starter J.A. Happ gave up one run and three hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino, sidelined since spring training by right shoulder inflammation and then a lat strain, is a week away from throwing. Manager Aaron Boone expects the ace to be back this season. … DH/OF Giancarlo Stanton, out until at least August with a sprained right knee, is making progress in his range-of-motion exercises.
Rays: CF Kevin Kiermier (sore left wrist) was out of the lineup for the second straight game. … INF Matt Duffy (left hamstring) went 1 for 2 in his first game with the GCL Rays. … Reliever Diego Castillo (right shoulder inflammation) had a bullpen session.
ALL STAR SWITCH
Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (5-5) goes Friday night against Rays two-way player Brendan McKay (1-0), who took a perfect game into the sixth inning of his major league debut last Saturday against Texas. Tanaka is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season.