NEW YORK (AP) — In a season they never quite envisioned, the New York Yankees broke loose for their biggest inning of the year in a way they didn’t imagine.
Brett Gardner homered early, then got two hits during a seven-run burst in the sixth inning fueled by five walks that sent the Yankees past the Tampa Bay Rays 13-5 on Sunday.
The Yankees took their second straight weekend series with Tampa Bay and moved a half-game in front atop the AL East. The Rays had been alone in first place for 47 straight days before New York scored three times in the ninth for a 4-3 win in the series opener Friday night.
With many of their stars still on the injury list, the Yankees continued to get major contributions from substitutes.
“Coming into and out of spring training, there’s no way anybody could have foreseen these opportunities that have arisen,” Gardner said. “I think some of these young guys have done a great job of really stepping up, coming up here and doing their job.”
Rookie Thairo Estrada had a pinch-hit, three-run double in the Yankees’ game-breaking inning.
“Thairo to me has been one of the faces of what we’re doing right now,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Aaron Hicks homered for the first time since returning from a back injury and DJ LeMahieu also connected to help the Yankees win for the 10th time in 13 games.
Kevin Kiermaier and Wily Adames homered on consecutive pitches in the second to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Brandon Lowe hit a three-run homer, his third of the series, to make it 5-3.
After Lowe homered in the third, it was all Yankees on the mound and at the plate.
Hicks tied the game in the fourth off Charlie Morton and Adam Ottavino (2-1) struck out Austin Meadows with the bases loaded to end the sixth and keep the score tied at 5.
Chance Adams pitched three scoreless innings for his first career save. He was sent back to Triple-A after the game.
Gardner, who hit a two-run homer off Morton in the second, started the Yankees sixth with a single off the glove of Diego Castillo (0-3).
Two walks and one out later, Luke Voit drew a bases-loaded walk off Castillo. Kendrys Morales later drew a bases-loaded walk off Ryne Stanek for a 7-5 lead and Gleyber Torres drove in a run with an infield single.
After Estrada’s big hit, Gardner capped the inning with an RBI double.
“Our pitching has been outstanding for us this year and they are going to continue to be outstanding. But today, it wasn’t their day,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
On the first anniversary of the Rays using an opener, the Yankees started Chad Green in that role. He allowed two runs on three hits while throwing 29 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.
Morton wound up with a no-decision that extended his career-high unbeaten string to 17 games. He allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits in a season-low four innings and did not mince words when describing his outing. “It was terrible,” Morton said.
Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez hit his first career triple in the fifth. It came in the 1,104th career at-bat for the slow-footed Sanchez.
Sanchez lofted a flyball to right field and easily slid into third ahead of the throw. Sanchez got up and quickly signaled that he wanted the ball as a keepsake.
Rays: INF Matt Duffy (left hamstring tightness) got three hits as the DH in a rehab game for Class A Charlotte. ... 3B Yandy Diaz left the game with a left hand contusion after hit being by Adams in the seventh. X-rays were negative and he is day-to-day. INF Daniel Robertson stayed in the game after getting hit in the helmet in the second.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (right shin contusion) was walking normally after being hit by Diaz’s 111.3 mph grounder Saturday. Boone said Tanaka was still feeling some soreness and the Yankees will know in the next few days if he can make his next start. ... LHP James Paxton (left knee inflammation) threw 20 pitches during his third bullpen session. He threw while wearing a brace on his leg and said he felt some minor discomfort. Paxton will throw his fourth bullpen session Tuesday and could be activated for his next turn if that goes well. Paxton has not pitched since May 3. ... RHP Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement) made 50 throws from 90 feet and said he felt good. Betances said he will play light catch Monday and then progress to 110 feet for a few days. Betances said he is not sure when he will get on a mound.
Rays: Tampa Bay is expected to use an opener for the 14th time this season on Tuesday at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will start Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 3.40 ERA).
Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (3-3, 4.44 ERA) starts Monday against the Orioles for the second straight time in the opener of a four-game series at Baltimore.