Gardner, Yankees take advantage of walks, rout Rays
By LARRY FLEISHER
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — In a season they never quite envisioned, the New York Yankees broke loose for their biggest inning of the year in a way they didn’t imagine.
Brett Gardner homered early, then got two hits during a seven-run burst in the sixth inning fueled by five walks that sent the Yankees past the Tampa Bay Rays 13-5 on Sunday.
The Yankees took their second straight weekend series with Tampa Bay and moved a half-game in front atop the AL East. The Rays had been alone in first place for 47 straight days before New York scored three times in the ninth for a 4-3 win in the series opener Friday night.
With many of their stars still on the injury list, the Yankees continued to get major contributions from substitutes.
“Coming into and out of spring training, there’s no way anybody could have foreseen these opportunities that have arisen,” Gardner said. “I think some of these young guys have done a great job of really stepping up, coming up here and doing their job.”
Rookie Thairo Estrada had a pinch-hit, three-run double in the Yankees’ game-breaking inning.
“Thairo to me has been one of the faces of what we’re doing right now,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Aaron Hicks homered for the first time since returning from a back injury and DJ LeMahieu also connected to help the Yankees win for the 10th time in 13 games.
Kevin Kiermaier and Wily Adames homered on consecutive pitches in the second to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Brandon Lowe hit a three-run homer, his third of the series, to make it 5-3.
After Lowe homered in the third, it was all Yankees on the mound and at the plate.
Hicks tied the game in the fourth off Charlie Morton and Adam Ottavino (2-1) struck out Austin Meadows with the bases loaded to end the sixth and keep the score tied at 5.
Chance Adams pitched three scoreless innings for his first career save. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game.
Gardner, who hit a two-run homer off Morton in the second, started the Yankees sixth with a single off the glove of Diego Castillo (0-3).
Two walks and one out later, Luke Voit drew a bases-loaded walk off Castillo. Kendrys Morales later drew a bases-loaded walk off Ryne Stanek for a 7-5 lead and Gleyber Torres drove in a run with an infield single.
After Estrada’s big hit, Gardner capped the inning with an RBI double.
“Our pitching has been outstanding for us this year and they are going to continue to be outstanding. But today, it wasn’t their day,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
On the first anniversary of the Rays using an opener, the Yankees started Chad Green in that role. He allowed two runs on three hits while throwing 29 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.