ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Staring another late-inning collapse in the face Tuesday, the Yankees’ bullpen finally figured out how to protect a lead in a 4-3 win over the Rays.
The Yankees followed up a nightmarish weekend at Fenway Park with a trip to Tropicana Field to face a Rays team that has given them fits the last two years.
They clung to a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth after Zack Britton allowed an RBI double to Randy Arozarena and an infield hit to Brandon Lowe to put runners on the corners with one out.
After a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake, Britton — limited to 10 appearances so far this season — responded by getting the Rays’ catcher to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Aroldis Chapman retired the first two batters in the ninth, but after getting ahead of Wander Franco 0-2, walked the shortstop to bring up Nelson Cruz.Aaron Judge watches Greg Allen slide safely into home on DJ LeMahieu’s single in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Rays. AP
Down 3-0 to Cruz, Chapman got back to a full count and got him swinging to end the game.
Against a Rays team that entered having won five of their previous six games overall, Jordan Montgomery pitched five scoreless innings and the Yankees survived another ugly performance from Chad Green, who allowed a two-run homer to Lowe in the sixth.
Jonathan Loaisiga tossed a scoreless seventh before Britton survived the eighth.
“We understand we’re at the point of the season where we’re a little behind the eight-ball,’’ Aaron Boone said of his team that moved to 8 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East with the victory. “It’s all about winning.”
The Yankees survived going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
DJ LeMahieu led off the game against left-hander Shane McClanahan with a double and moved to third on a single by Aaron Judge, who returned from the COVID IL.
After a Gary Sanchez strikeout, Giancarlo Stanton walked to load the bases for Gleyber Torres, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Rays also wasted a scoring chance in the bottom of the inning. Manuel Margot opened the inning with a walk. He moved to second on a wild pitch, but was thrown out by Sanchez as he tried to steal third.
Montgomery allowed one-out singles to Margot and Franco in the third, but got Cruz to ground into a double play to keep the game scoreless.
With one out in the fourth, Torres lined a ball off the wall in center. Kevin Kiermaier played it well and made a strong throw to second to keep Torres at first.
Rougned Odor followed with a walk before Urshela and Ryan LaMarre both grounded out to end the threat.
The Yankees broke through in the fifth. Greg Allen started the inning with a double to left and scored on LeMahieu’s single through the right side of the infield.
Judge then grounded into a double play, and after a Sanchez walk, Stanton fanned again to keep it a one-run game.
Montgomery pitched around a two-out walk to Franco in the fifth, striking out Cruz with his 102nd and final pitch of the night.
The Yankees padded their lead in the sixth with three straight hits off McClanahan to start the inning.
Torres singled to right and moved to third on an Odor single, also to right.
Urshela hit a booming double to center. Torres scored easily, and after first waving Odor home, third base coach Phil Nevin held up a late stop sign, but Odor raced home and beat the throw to make it 3-0.
Green replaced Montgomery to start the sixth. The right-hander pitched poorly in two of his previous four outings.
The trend continued Tuesday, as Green allowed a two-out, two-run homer to Lowe to cut the Yankees’ lead to 3-2.
Loaisiga pitched a perfect seventh and LaMarre hit an opposite-field homer in the eighth to put the Yankees up by two runs again.