ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka and Tropicana Field were both lights out.
Tanaka outpitched reigning Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, Thairo Estrada homered just after play resumed following a ninth-inning power outage and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 Sunday to take two of three from the AL East leaders.
“Masa went out and set the tone for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
New York closed back within one-half game of the Rays. Despite 16 players going on the injured list the Yankees are 24-16, just four wins fewer than after 40 games last year.
“More guys just continue to step up,” Boone said. “It’s not easy for us right now. We’ve got to grind and scratch for everything.”
Tanaka (3-3) matched his season high of seven innings, allowing one run and five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“He’s a wizard,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said.
Tanaka had his best splitter this season and threw it on 27 of 73 pitches along with 29 sliders, 15 fastballs and two sinkers. He gave up his only run when Austin Meadows homered in the sixth.
“Looking back a couple games, I think today was one of the best ones,” Tanaka said through a translator.
Snell (3-4) struck out six of his first seven batters, getting eight swings and misses in the first two innings. He was perfect through three innings, getting seven strikeouts and throwing just 38 pitches
But Snell needed 30 pitches to get through the fourth inning, and New York went ahead in the fifth when Austin Romine and Michael Tauchman hit consecutive two-out doubles and DJ LeMahieu followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
Coming off a win Monday over Arizona in which he retired his first 17 batters, Snell struck out 12 in 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, four hits, two walks.
“With me not being able to keep us in the game and let the fifth inning happen, I can’t allow that to happen,” Snell said. “It’s frustrating.”
Ryne Stanek threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth, and play stopped when the ballpark lights went out after Austin Pruitt threw his first pitch of the ninth to Estrada. At first, many in the stands turned their cellphone lights toward the field.
The Rays said in a statement the outage stemmed from the failure of a main switch in the building and that staff was able to reroute the electrical feed to an alternate switch temporarily.
Play resumed after a 43-minute delay, and Estrada hit Pruitt’s second pitch after the resumption for a home run that boosted the lead to 4-1. Gio Urshela, who had struck out in his first four at-bats, added a two-run double and Brett Gardner a sacrifice fly.
“I’ve never been through something like that,” Estrada said through a translator. “You’ve just got to keep your mind in a positive state.”
Zack Britton got into a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth before striking out Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz.
Chad Green struck out the side on 12 pitches in a perfect ninth, his first appearance for the Yankees since April 23. Green had a 16.43 ERA when he was demoted to the minors to work on his mechanics, and he made three appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“You definitely want to see instant results, especially after you struggle like I did,” Green said. “It’s nice to get back out there.”
Catcher Gary Sánchez and shortstop Gleyber Torres were held out as the Yankees took a conservative approach with injuries.
Sanchez was hit hard on his catching helmet by Guillermo Heredia’s backswing Saturday night in the eighth inning, but stayed in the game.
Torres played Saturday, one day after getting hit by a pitch on the right elbow. Boone said Torres “felt like he was a little sore throwing the ball.”
Yankees: CF Aaron Hicks (strained left lower back) is expected to be activated from the IL on Monday. Hicks hurt his back during batting practice March 1 and needed a pair of cortisone shots. He went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a homer for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, leaving him 3 for 18 in five minor league injury rehabilitation games. The RailRiders were rained out Sunday. ... 1B Greg Bird (torn left plantar fascia) was transferred to the 60-day IL to clear a roster spot for INF Breyvic Valera, who was acquired from San Francisco and optioned to Scranton.
Rays: 3B Matt Duffy (strained left hamstring) will resume an injury rehabilitation assignment Monday night with Class A Charlotte.
C Anthony Bemboom started for the Rays and became the oldest position player at 29 to make his major league debut with the team. He was hitless in two at-bats.
Yankees: RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (1-1) will go against Baltimore RHP David Hess (1-4) Monday night.
Rays: RHP Charlie Morton (3-0) and Miami LHP Caleb Smith (3-0) are Tuesday night’s starters.