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Yanks keep Gard' up, walk off with 6th straight

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner's walk-off single in the ninth gave the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Rays on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. It was Gardner's second game-winning hit of this four-game series for the Yankees (56-46), who won their sixth in a row and maintained their position in first place in the American League East. The third-place Rays (53-52) lost their third straight to fall to 4 1/2 games behind New York.

"We've had exciting games recently," Gardner said. "I just came up in a big spot and I was able to get a good pitch to hit."

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NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner's walk-off single in the ninth gave the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Rays on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. It was Gardner's second game-winning hit of this four-game series for the Yankees (56-46), who won their sixth in a row and maintained their position in first place in the American League East. The third-place Rays (53-52) lost their third straight to fall to 4 1/2 games behind New York.

"We've had exciting games recently," Gardner said. "I just came up in a big spot and I was able to get a good pitch to hit."

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Chase Headley, who delivered a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the sixth, drew a leadoff walk from Brad Boxberger to start the ninth, and he did so after falling behind 0-2.

Video: TB@NYY: Gardner on his eighth career walk-off hit

"He fouled the one fastball off and he laid off what I thought were some good pitches," Boxberger said. "Giving a walk to a leadoff hitter is never a good idea."

Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran for Headley and promptly stole second before Boxberger hit Todd Frazier with a pitch to put runners at first and second. Ronald Torreyes then bunted between third base and the pitcher, and Boxberger couldn't make a play, allowing Torreyes to reach with an infield single that loaded the bases with no outs.

Rays manager Kevin Cash lifted Boxberger at that point and brought in left-hander Dan Jennings to pitch to Gardner, who was the hero of Thursday night's game with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning. And he came through again, with a single through the middle of the Rays' drawn-in infield to score Ellsbury with the winning run.

"They're on fire right now," Cash said of the rival Yankees. "Seems like they have a lot of things going their way. Stuff's not going our way right now, but we have to find a way to overcome it."

The Rays took an immediate lead when Peter Bourjos homered off Caleb Smith to open the game. The veteran outfielder connected on a 1-0 pitch for his second career leadoff home run. Steven Souza Jr. added a solo home run off Adam Warren in the fifth, and Lucas Duda homered off David Robertson in the eighth to tie the score at 4.

Video: TB@NYY: Souza Jr. cranks a solo shot to left in 5th

Gary Sanchez homered off Blake Snell in the fourth, and Headley hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer off Sergio Romo in the sixth to give the Yankees their first lead of the day at 4-3.

Video: TB@NYY: Sanchez clobbers a solo homer to deep left

• Snell stays winless, but continues progression

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Headley goes oppo: Headley pinch-hit for Garrett Cooper with one out in the sixth when Romo took over from Snell. The infielder had gone 124 at-bats without a home run before connecting on an 86-mph fastball and driving the ball over the left-field wall, giving Headley his fifth home run of the season and just his second opposite-field one as a lefty since joining the Yankees in 2014.

Video: TB@NYY: Headley pinch-hits a two-run jack off Romo

"The key factor was I felt like Romo was a better matchup at the time on Headley then Snell was on Cooper the third time [at bat], or whatever it was," Cash said. "I wanted to save [Steve] Cishek for 2-3-4."

Bringing the heat: With the potential go-ahead run on third base with two outs in the ninth, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw the fastest pitch recorded by Statcast™ this season in his first career matchup with Evan Longoria. The pitch was clocked at 103.5 mph, which Longoria fouled off. Chapman followed up with another fastball at 102.5 mph to get Longoria to pop out to Headley and end the inning. More >

Video: TB@NYY: Chapman fires up to 103 to retire Longoria

QUOTABLE
"Brett Gardner just taking care of business every time. He makes it look pretty easy out there. Hopefully we keep riding that ship, and he'll carry us right into the playoffs." -- Frazier, on the importance of Gardner

"We just can't do that. They're in such a good spot right now as a club, you get the sense they're going to make you pay for it. They have the weapon to bring Ellsbury in there. He steals second uncontested. Walks come in to score. Our guys know that." -- Cash, on Boxberger's leadoff walk of Headley in the ninth

Video: TB@NYY: Ellsbury swipes second base in the 9th

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Duda became only the second player in Tampa Bay history to homer in each of his first two games with the club, joining Elijah Dukes.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: Jacob Faria (5-1, 2.67) gets the nod as the Rays wrap up their four-game series against the Yankees on Sunday in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Yankee Stadium. Faria, who has quality starts in eight of his nine Major League starts, pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings Tuesday night against the Orioles.

Yankees: Jordan Montgomery (7-5, 3.92 ERA) takes the mound for the Yankees in the final game of the four-game series vs. the Rays. Montgomery, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Tuesday, leads all MLB rookie pitchers with 99 strikeouts this season.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.