NEW YORK – Clint Frazier casually dropped his bat and stepped slowly across home plate, his eyes fixed to left field. This drive was leaving in a hurry, and he was determined to savor every bit of it.
“I wanted to really let that one sink in,” he said.
Frazier hit a game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the 11th inning after making a game-saving catch in the eighth, lifting the slumping New York Yankees over the rival Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Tuesday night.
New York ended a four-game slide and beat Tampa Bay in the Bronx for the second time in 11 tries since the start of last season. The AL East-leading Rays had won 16 of 17 and are 4 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Yankees with two games left in this four-game series.
The righty-hitting Frazier turned on a slider from right-hander Andrew Kittredge (5-1) and took his time out of the box, admiring the low, screaming liner that capped a night in which both teams came up short on several potential rallies.
One of those stalled efforts came in the eighth, when Frazier dove and needed every inch of his mitt to catch Joey Wendle’s soft-hit liner to strand two — a clutch play for a right fielder who was essentially booed out of the Bronx in 2019 for his defensive shortcomings.
“I've worked really hard at my defense and tried to make it something that people can't talk about for the wrong reasons anymore,” he said.
The Yankees offense has struggled so mightily, hitting coach Marcus Thames joked before the game he has bags under his eyes from a series of sleepless nights. With just six hits as a team, this was hardly a clean breakthrough, but New York also drew seven walks to eke out a tight win.
“Yeah, we needed that," manager Aaron Boone said.
After slowly jogging around the bases on his homer, Frazier tossed his helmet like a pull-up jumper as he neared teammates waiting at home plate, then joined the mob after his second career walk-off homer. His other was in 2017 in his sixth major league game.
Frazier's game-ending homer lifted his batting average to .185, and it was only his fifth homer.
“It’s been a tough year for me, and to be able to do that meant a lot," he said. “It’s a really cool feeling coming around third base and seeing all those guys jumping up and down ready to embrace you.”
Luis Cessa (1-0) quickly worked through a perfect top of the 11th, the last of seven Yankees pitchers to combine on a three-hitter. The bullpen accounted for six hitless innings.
Both teams had chances in the late innings.
After Yankees reliever Lucas Luetge quickly blanked Tampa Bay in the top of the 10th, Kittredge left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning by striking out Gary Sánchez.
Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks also stranded two runners in the ninth when slumping DJ LeMahieu stung a line drive right at second baseman Brandon Lowe, and teammate J.P. Feyereisen left two Yankees aboard in the eighth when pinch-hitter Giancarlo Stanton grounded out.
“Our relievers were tremendous,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Our pitching all night was really good.”
Tampa Bay had held New York to three or fewer runs in seven straight matchups and won nine straight against division foes. The Rays drew six walks but couldn't finish off any rallies in the late innings.
“We did a good job of getting guys on base and taking our walks, but the big hit just really eluded us for whatever reason,” Cash said.
Tampa Bay ace Tyler Glasnow covered seven innings and was pulled from a 3-all game after throwing 100 pitches. He struck out eight and allowed four hits and two walks — including a bases-loaded free pass to Aaron Judge in the third. Glasnow also threw a wild pitch that allowed LeMahieu to score from third base.
Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier homered off Yankees starter Domingo Germán during a back-and-forth first half of the game. Miguel Andújar connected for New York, one day after hitting his first homer of the season.
Meadows improved to 5 for 9 with four homers against Germán with his two-run homer in the first inning.
Rays: RHP Chaz Roe (strained right shoulder) was scratched from a rehab appearance with Triple-A Durham after experiencing soreness. The club was waiting to see how he responded to treatment before determining the next steps.
Yankees: 1B Mike Ford was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game. ... RHP Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020) consistently reached 97 mph with his fastball during a three-inning, 40-pitch simulated game Monday and will begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday, Boone said. ... Third base coach Phil Nevin (COVID-19) returned to the ballpark but isn't ready to be in the dugout or on the field during games.
Rays LHP Shane McClanahan (2-0, 3.29) is slated to face Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 4.22) in the third game of the series.
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