Clint Frazier hit a game-ending, two-run homer with two outs in the 11th inning after making a game-saving catch in the eighth, and the slumping New York Yankees defeat the rival Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Tuesday night.
The righty-hitting Frazier turned on a slider from right-hander Andrew Kittredge (5-1) and stood at the plate to admire the drive, capping a tight finish in which both teams came up short on 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.
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 campaign. The AL East-leading Rays remained 4 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees with two games left in this four-game series.
Tampa Bay had held New York to three or fewer runs in seven straight matchups and won nine consecutive against division foes.
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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, this was hardly a clean breakthrough, but New York also drew seven walks to eke out a tight win over a division rival.
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 jumped with them after his second career walk-off homer. His other came as a rookie in 2017.
Frazier’s homer lifted his batting average to .185 during a difficult season.
It was only his fifth homer and first since May 16.
“It’s been a long season,” Frazier said. “But the people in here believe in me.”
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.
After Yankees reliever Lucas Luetge quickly blanked Tampa Bay in the top of the 10th, New York loaded the bases with two outs but left them that way when Gary Sánchez struck out.
The Yankees catcher was also thrown out after a baserunning blunder in the eighth and made a pair of defensive miscues — an airmailed throw on a stolen base attempt and a sloppy stab at a blockable wild pitch that let a runner advance.
Both teams had opportunities in the late innings.
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