Austin Meadows homered off Luis Cessa in the 11th inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to beat the Yankees 2-1 Saturday and regain the AL East lead after dropping behind New York for a day.
New York’s bullpen retired 13 in a row before Meadows lined a slider from Cessa (0-1) into the right-field seats for his ninth homer.
Meadows saved a run in the sixth when he charged Gleyber Torres’ two-out single to left and made a one-hop throw to the plate. Catcher Erik Kratz tagged Aaron Hicks, who tried to score from second and ran past third base coach Phil Nevin’s stop sign.
Masahiro Tanaka outpitched AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell for the second time in less than a week and was provided a lead when Snell threw a run-scoring wild pitch in the third.
Tanaka left with a bruised shin after a grounder up the middle in the sixth. Brandon Lowe tied the score in the seventh, homering on the second pitch from reliever Tommy Kahnle.
Hunter Wood (1-0) pitched a perfect 11th in his first appearance since May 1 following a stint on the injured list caused by right shoulder soreness.
A day after failing to hold a two-run lead in the ninth, José Alvarado gave up a leadoff single to Luke Voit in the bottom half. Hicks struck out, and Gary Sánchez, who had struck out four times, grounded into a game-ending double play. Alvarado got his fifth save in six chances.
Tanaka allowed three hits in six scoreless innings, struck out six and walked none, his splitter sharp for the second straight outing.
Ji-Man Choi doubled with two outs on the sixth and Yandy Diaz followed with a hard grounder up the middle that seemed destined to become an RBI single. Tanaka spun at the end of his delivery, and the ball ricocheted off the pitcher’s right shin directly to Voit, who stepped on first. The Yankees said X-rays of Tanaka’s shin were negative.
Snell struggled early with a high pitch count but then got into a groove and gave up one run and six hits in six innings. He struck out nine, raising his total to 21 in 11 2/3 innings against the Yankees over the two starts.
He was pitching to his fourth catcher in five starts, and the Yankees went ahead in the third when Snell bounced a 1-1 changeup to Gary Sánchez past Kratz with the bases loaded. Kratz was obtained Thursday from San Francisco.
Alvarado’s wild pitch on Friday night allowed the tying run to score as New York rallied for three runs in the ninth and a 4-3 win.
Hicks struck out in the third, dropping to 3 for 40 with the bases loaded. His first-inning single had ended an 0-for-8 slide that followed his return from a spring training back injury.
A night after his game-ending single capped a three-run rally in the ninth, Gio Urshela fouled off seventh straight pitches in the ninth, then flied out to Kevin Kiermaier on the right-field warning track on the 12th pitch of his at-bat — as a fan reached out with cap trying to snag the ball first.
Lowe moved from second to right when Torres led off the ninth as Avisaíl García shifted to right-center in a four-man outfield. Torres struck out.
Sunday marks the first anniversary of the Rays using a relief pitcher as an opener in some games instead of a traditional starting pitcher and they are 40-29 in those games, 56-37 in others. “I think it’s helped with young pitchers coming up and getting established at the big league level, especially those guys that follow the opener,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “It can kind of set the tone a little bit. You’re just not too accustomed to seeing a guy come in and throwing 98, 99 miles an hour right out of the gate and basically playing matchup baseball in the first two innings.”
Rays: RHP Austin Pruitt was optioned to Durham (IL) to open a roster spot for Wood. … INF Matt Duffy (left hamstring) was to play seven innings at shortstop rather than third for Class A Charlotte on Saturday night.
Yankees: SS Didi Gregorius is to play Monday in his first extended spring training game since Tommy John surgery on Oct. 17 and is projected to rejoin New York in June … LHP James Paxton (left knee inflammation) is to throw a third bullpen session Sunday and could be activated during next week’s trip. … OF Giancarlo Stanton (left biceps, shoulder) is to start an injury rehab assignment for Class A Tampa on Monday night.
RHP Charlie Morton (4-0) starts the series finale for the Rays against a Yankees pitcher to be determined.
Meadows HR in 11th, Rays Top Yanks 2-1, Back in 1st Place