Brett Gardner hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to lead the Yankees to a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. >> Box score
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the second inning behind Jacoby Ellsbury's RBI double and Todd Frazier's RBI single. Gary Sanchez had two hits -- including a solo home run in the third inning -- and two RBIs on the night. Didi Gregorius continued his surge as of late, picking up two more hits and scoring a run, while Chase Headley had three hits.
C.C. Sabathia lasted just four and 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on five hits -- including a fourth-inning home run by Evan Longoria. Chad Green allowed a run in relief, but Tommy Kahnle, Dellen Betances, Adam Warren, and Aroldis Chapman combined to pitch five scoreless innings for the Yankees.
Chapman pitched the final two innings of the game to earn his third win of the season.
After getting out to an early 3-0 lead, the Yankees seemed poised to start this series off on the right foot. However, Sabathia got into trouble in the fifth and Yankees manager went to Chad Green to get out of the jam. Green has been a revelation as a reliever, but he couldn't get the job done as both inherited runners scored.
The move by Girardi was good in theory. Even with Rays manager Kevin Cash's decision to use a pinch hitter, Green was fresh and Sabathia had been laboring. If anything, it is good to see Girardi ready to use the stronger pitcher in key situations early in games that he wants to preserve the win. The new relief additions have made the Yankees bullpen extremely deep and now we see how Girardi will try to use it.
Girardi also showed how he can get his team's mindset back from a bad situation. After he was tossed for vehemently arguing balls and strikes, it seemed to motivate what's been a resilient club all season. Ironically, Gardner was the man Girardi was arguing for and the outfielder ended up scoring the tying run after a triple and then finishing it with the walkoff blast.
The Yankees and Rays will return to action on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Masahiro Tanaka (7-9, 5.37 ERA) will face Austin Pruitt (53-49)