Gio Urshela gave the Yankees a stunning 4-3 win Friday night with a game-winning single two out in the bottom of the ninth.
It was just the latest huge hit for Urshela, who started the year in the minors, but has become one of the most important players on the Yankees this season in third baseman Miguel Andujar’s absence.
Urshela’s single to right-center capped a comeback that started with Luke Voit’s leadoff homer in the inning, as the Yankees moved into first place in the AL East for the first time since the second day of the season.
After Voit’s home run, Gary Sanchez singled to left. He was removed for pinch runner Thairo Estrada before Gleyber Torres continued his hot hitting with a double to left, sending Estrada to third. Clint Frazier was walked intentionally to load the bases and Brett Gardner was lifted for Cameron Maybin.
Jose Alvarado’s next pitch went to the backstop, with Estrada scoring to tie the game. Maybin grounded to third and Torres was thrown out at the plate to bring up Urshela.
The victory was the Yankees’ fourth straight and came after a 35-minute rain delay in the bottom of the eighth — the third time they’ve had a game impacted by weather this week, following the two postponements against Baltimore.
The dramatics against Alvarado took Chad Green off the hook, as the right-hander had allowed a pair of runs in the eighth inning.
The Yankees got a strong start from an angry CC Sabathia and a scoreless inning from Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle before the once dominant Chad Green entered in the eighth against the Rays, who entered the game with a one-half game lead in the AL East.
In just his second game back since being called up from the minors after a rough start to the season, Green was one strike away from keeping the game tied with a scoreless eighth.
Instead, he gave up a booming RBI double to Brandon Lowe and then an infield hit to Kevin Kiermaier that turned into another run when Torres threw the ball away, allowing Lowe to score.
Sabathia gave up just one run in six innings — his longest start of the season — but was pitching with an edge.
The Yankees were irritated last weekend at Tampa Bay when they were repeatedly drilled by Rays pitchers, especially when Yonny Chirinos hit Voit up high on his left arm. Sabathia earned a five-game suspension last September after he threw at Jesus Sucre following Andrew Kittredge firing a ball near Austin Romine’s head.
Chirinos tossed 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings on Friday without incident.
Sabathia, though, seemed to try to enact some revenge against the team that also irked him in September, when he appeared to say he was trying to hit Austin Meadows with a pitch in the fifth and then screamed in the direction of Tampa Bay’s dugout after he whiffed Lowe to end the top of the sixth with his final pitch of the night.
He was outstanding in his 84-pitch performance, giving up just a leadoff homer by Willy Adames in the fourth.
Morales gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with one out in the bottom of the second when he blasted a 2-0 pitch into the upper deck in right field off Tampa Bay opener Ryne Stanek.
It was his first home run as a Yankee and second of the season.
The Rays tied it with the homer by Adames, the ninth allowed by Sabathia in his last five starts.
Ottavino got the first two outs in the seventh before he issued a four-pitch walk to Tommy Pham and Kahnle — who has been excellent against lefties — entered to face the lefty-swinging Meadows.
Meadows singled to the opposite field before Kahnle got Avisail Garcia swinging to keep the game tied.
Green, who struck out the side in his return from the minors on Sunday against the Rays, was far less effective Friday night.
He gave up a one-out double to Daniel Robertson before Lowe hammered a double over Aaron Hicks in center to give Tampa Bay its first lead.