NEW YORK -- The Yankees entered the bottom of the sixth inning tied at 5 with the Rays in a back-and-forth game that featured home runs from both sides. But the Yanks took control in the sixth, scoring seven runs on four hits in an inning that included five walks
NEW YORK -- The Yankees entered the bottom of the sixth inning tied at 5 with the Rays in a back-and-forth game that featured home runs from both sides. But the Yanks took control in the sixth, scoring seven runs on four hits in an inning that included five walks from Rays pitchers, one of which was intentional. That gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, going on to win, 13-5, and take the series. With the victory, New York regains a half-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East.
Each Yankees batter came to the plate at least once, with Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier batting twice in the inning. The only Yanks batter not to reach base was DJ LeMahieu.
• Box score
The first two runs of the inning scored on bases-loaded walks to Luke Voit and Kendrys Morales.
“That’s a great example of [if] you control the strike zone, you can have an inning like that,” manager Aaron Boone said about the walks. “And if you’re playing against a team like Tampa Bay, you’d better control the strike zone or they’re going to make you look bad. And that was a classic example there of making it really difficult on them, especially when they had [Diego] Castillo and [Ryne] Stanek in that game. Those are tough customers. I thought we did a really good job of giving ourselves a chance. … A lot of really good at-bats in that inning.”
Then, following a challenge by the Rays, Gleyber Torres plated a run on a single before pinch-hitter Thairo Estrada -- hitting for Gio Urshela -- knocked a bases-clearing double to make it 11-5. New York tacked on one more on a Gardner double to bring home Estrada.
Estrada was batting because Urshela had been hit in the groin area after fouling off a pitch in his at-bat in the third inning. “I think he’s OK,” Boone said after the game. “He was just having a little hard time running. I don’t think it’s anything too major, but we were kind of cautious there. He wasn’t feeling great and we decided to get him out of there.”
That substitution was in many ways representative of what has driven the Yankees’ offense and success this season in the face of injuries: Players stepping up. Estrada, like Urshela, didn’t figure to get much playing time entering the season -- yet there he was, contributing. Estrada has made the most of his chances, and he got the key hit to propel his team to a win on Sunday, something Urshela has done as well.
“Thairo, to me, has been one of the faces of what we’re doing right now,” Boone said. “This guy’s a prospect, in a lot of ways we kind of rushed him up here and threw him into the fire, and he’s handled every situation perfectly. Every time we’re in a situation, middle of the game, where we’re thinking through a possible move, he’s thinking along with the game, he’s prepared. He goes out there and plays with a calm and a poise, and he’s come up with a lot of big hits, a lot of big defensive plays. He’s been a really good player for us.”
The offense came alive, with Aaron Hicks hitting his first home run of the season in the fourth inning to tie the game at 5 and Gardner notching a three-hit game after entering the day hitting .140 (6-for-43) in May.
Hicks summed up the win as an example of what the team has done all year.
“It just proves the fight that our team has,” Hicks said. “We really are doing ‘next man up,’ and guys are performing and doing what they need to do to help this team win.”
The seven-run inning was the Yankees’ largest output in a single frame this season. They had multiple seven-run innings last season.
With the seven-run sixth and LeMahieu’s solo homer in the seventh, the Yankees tallied 13 runs, their second-highest-scoring game of the season. They scored 15 against the Orioles in Baltimore on April 7.
Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.