ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — There’s no question DJ LeMahieu and Gary Sanchez are both early contenders for league MVP. On the Fourth of July, they both added to their cases in a pivotal series in Tampa.
LeMahieu hit a tie-breaking two-run single and Sanchez had a long three-run homer in the 10th inning, and the AL East-leading New York Yankees overcame a ninth-inning blown save by closer Aroldis Chapman to beat the second-place Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.
Edwin Encarnacion added to the fireworks with his 25th homer for the Yankees, who are 15-2 since June 15 and have a season-high, 7 ½-game lead over the Rays.
Tampa Bay, which led the division as late as games through June 14, is 2-8 against the Yankees this season.
Gio Urshela started the 10th drawing a walk off Oliver Drake (0-1) and went to second when pinch-hitter Aaron Judge walked on a 10-pitch plate appearance.
After the Yankees loaded the bases on Brett Gardner’s bunt single, LeMahieu greeted Emilio Pagan with a ground single to left through a drawn-in infield.
LeMahieu has been the league’s most lethal hitter in the clutch this season; hitting .480 with runners in scoring position. With the bases loaded, he been almost unstoppable. LeMahieu’s 10th inning single made him an unbelievable 9-for-11 with 20 RBI with the bases full of Yankees.
Sanchez hit his 24th homer off Pagan, a titanic 461-foot drive into the second deck in the left field.
Travis d’Arnaud had an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th off Luis Cessa, who was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded. David Hale got his second save by getting a grounder from Yandy Diaz.
The Rays rallied from a two-run deficit in ninth to tie it at 3-all against Chapman (2-1), who opened the ninth by walking Nate Lowe on four pitches.
Lowe scored on Joey Wendle’s one-out double. Wendle then came home on a pair of wild pitches by Chapman. Tampa Bay then loaded the bases before Chapman struck out Austin Meadows to end the ninth.
It was Chapman’s third blown save in 26 save opportunities.
Encarnacion made it 3-1 on his solo shot in the seventh off Yonny Chirinos, who allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino, sidelined since spring training by right shoulder inflammation and then a lat strain, is a week away from throwing. Manager Aaron Boone expects the ace to be back this season.
DH/OF Giancarlo Stanton, out until at least August with a sprained right knee, is making progress in his range-of-motion exercises.
Rays 2B Brandon Lowe (bruised right shin) was placed on the 10-day IL and replaced on the AL All-Star roster by Yankees 2B Gleyber Torres.
Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (5-5) goes Friday night against Rays two-way player Brendan McKay (1-0), who took a perfect game into the sixth inning of his major league debut last Saturday against Texas. Tanaka is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)