Jeter’s clutch hit helps Yanks end 5-game losing streak

The Yankees ended a disturbing pattern on this trip in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Rays that stopped a five-game losing streak. In the two games at Baltimore that began the trip, the Yankees scored early but failed to add to their lead while the Orioles came back to take each game.

Friday night was different but not in a good way. The Yankees did not give up the lead because they never had one. In fact, they did not score at all.

Saturday was looking like the same thing for a while. The Yanks jumped ahead 2-0 in the second inning against lefthander Drew Smyly on Martin Prado’s sixth home run of the season. Inning after inning went by without the Yankees extending the lead for Shane Greene, who was brilliant with 10 strikeouts in six-plus innings. The Rays scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to tie the score and hang Greene with a no-decision. He was kicking himself for hitting a batter with a pitch to start the seventh. A pinch runner eventually came around to score the tying run.

Then came the ninth, and things started going the Yankees’ way. Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and continued to second base on an errant throw by second baseman Logan Fosythe.

Derek Jeter attempted to bunt Gardner to third base but could not handle lefthander Jake McGee’s high octane gas as the count went to 2-2. Tampa Bay kept its infield tight with the idea that DJ still might bunt despite having two strikes. Nope. The Captain swung away and lined a 99-mph fastball past a diving Forsythe for a single to right-center that brought Gardner home with what proved the winning run.

Pitching for the first time in nine days, David Robertson notched his 32nd save to preserve the victory for Dellin Betances (5-0), who pitched a perfect eighth inning. Shawn Kelley also pitched a shutout seventh as the bullpen had its first strong performance on the trip.

The loss dropped the Rays back under .500 (61-62) after they had gotten to the level level with Friday night’s 5-0 victory, quite a feat for a team that was once 18 games under .500. The last major-league team to go from 18-under to .500 in the same season was the Marlins in 2006 when they were managed by current Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.

He picked a perfect game to put Carlos Beltran back in right field for the first time since May 11 because the way Greene pitched nobody hit the ball to Beltran, who did not have a fielding chance until he caught a drive by Evan Longoria for the first out of the eighth inning.

Beltran’s return to the outfield permits Girardi to go back to his preference of using the designated hitter spot as a way to give players a half-game off. Saturday’s hero, Jeter, was the DH in this one.

Girardi decided against using Brian McCann, who came off the 7-day concussion list, and had Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. McCann had a lackluster workout Friday, so Girardi chose to wait at least one more day before getting his regular catcher back in the mix.

The much-needed victory also guaranteed the Yankees will leave St. Petersburg after Sunday’s game no deeper than third place in the American League East. After the shutout loss Friday night, it created a situation where the Rays could have jumped over the Yankees in the standings this weekend, a prognosis that fell apart with Saturday’s comeback victory.

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