Aaron Judge hit his 53rd homer two pitches in the game and added a run in the seventh inning as the New York Yankees held on for a 2-1 victory over the host Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday at St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Yankees ended an underwhelming 4-6 road trip by winning for the second time in eight games following a five-game winning streak. They will head back to New York with a five-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East.
The Yankees are 19-31 since holding a 15 1/2 game lead following their 12-5 win at Boston on July 8 and 16-26 since the All-Star break.
New York had just three runs in the series with Judge involved in all of them after also hitting a home run Saturday. He had five of the Yankees’ 14 hits in the three games.
On Sunday, Judge hit a 450-foot homer off Tampa Bay opener Shawn Armstrong (2-2), had three hits and scored on a sacrifice fly by rookie Oswaldo Cabrera in the seventh.
Rays pinch hitter Francisco Mejia had an RBI single in the ninth as Tampa Bay saw a five-game winning streak stopped and missed a chance at getting within three games of the lead for the first time since May 9.
The Rays also dropped to 20-9 since Aug. 3 and visit New York for the final three games of the season series next weekend.
Frankie Montas (5-11) allowed a single in the third to Yandy Diaz and pitched five innings for his first win since joining the Yankees from the Oakland Athletics at the trade deadline. Montas struck out seven, walked none and worked around two errors.
Armstrong allowed one hit in three innings before bulk reliever Ryan Yarbrough allowed three hits in 2 2/3 innings. Colin Poche allowed Cabrera’s fly ball and stranded a runner in the seventh.
Judge hit his third career leadoff homer when he blasted Armstrong’s 1-0 sinker off a catwalk in left field. The Yankees had runners on in every inning except the third and seventh, including the second when Donaldson took exception to ball four being up and in.
Before heading to first, Donaldson stared and began yelling at Armstrong. The benches and bullpens cleared but no punches were thrown, and the game quickly resumed after umpires issued warnings.
Four relievers followed Montas, including Jonathan Loaisiga, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got Diaz to ground into a fielder’s choice.
New York’s Clay Holmes stranded runners at second and third for his 18th save, ending the game when he retired Diaz on a called third strike.
–Field Level Media
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