This was one of those games that the Tampa Bay Rays could have won, but as has happened many times over the past few years, they could not get over the hump at Yankee Stadium, as the New York Yankees took the second game of this important three-game set by a 6-3 score, extending their lead over the Rays to 2 1/2 games in the American League East.
A curious decision in the fifth inning by Rays manager Kevin Cash to remove Ryan Yarbrough, who, in relief of opener Ryan Stanek, pitched three very strong innings, giving up only a hit with two strikeouts, turned the tide of the game in the Yankees' favor. With the Rays holding a 2-1 lead, in came Chaz Roe, who promptly gave up four straight singles to right-handed hitters Gleyber Torres, Cameron Maybin, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit, the latter two driving home single runs to give the Yanks a 3-2 lead. After a strikeout of lefty-hitting Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez drove in the Yankees' third run of the inning with yet another single, giving the Yankees a two-run cushion.
The Yankees broke through first in the bottom of the first inning, as Stanek put the first two hitters on as LeMahieu singled and Voit walked. After a fielder's choice by Aaron Hicks advanced LeMahieu to third, Sanchez drove LeMahieu home with a sacrifice fly.
The Rays immediately answered and finally scored their first run of the series in the top of the second, with back-to-back-to-back singles by Kevin Kiermaier, Guillermo Heredia, and Mike Zunino, who drove in Kiermaier with one out.
They took the lead in the third after a leadoff double by Tommy Pham. After yet another Brandon Lowe strikeout (his 88th, 2nd in the AL), Avisail Garcia singled Pham home to give the Rays their first lead of the series at 2-1.
After the Yankees took the lead in the fifth, it became a game of bullpens, as Yankees' starter JA Happ was removed for Adam Ottavino, who promptly retired the Rays 1-2-3 in the 6th.
But in the 7th, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, having a rested bullpen after Masahiro Tanaka's masterpiece on Monday night, sent out reliever Tommy Kahnle to start the seventh. Kahnle promptly walked Joey Wendle, and then Travis d'Arnaud lined a double into the left field corner, scoring Wendle from first, cutting the Yankees' lead to 4-3, giving the Rays hope with the heart of the order set to bat.
But d'Arnaud was stranded at second, as Tommy Pham and Brandon Lowe both struck out, and Garcia grounded out to second baseman Torres.
The Yankees quickly got that run back in the bottom of the seventh, as Cameron Maybin led off the inning with a solo blast to left off Oliver Drake, extending the team's streak of homering to 21 games, the second-longest in the franchise's storied history.
Edwin Encarnacion added a solo blast to right-center in the 8th inning, his first hit as a Yankee, extending the lead to what turned out to be the final score.
* The Rays are 2-6 against the Yankees this season.
* The game was delayed 1:16 prior to first pitch as showers came through the New York City area; there is an 80 percent chance for rain during Wednesday's game.
* On Wednesday, Blake Snell will try to play the role of stopper, that is, trying to stop a losing skid. He'll face CC Sabathia in the series finale, scheduled for 1:05.
Photo Courtesy Tampa Bay Rays