A-Rod carries Yanks past HR-happy Rays in series opener
By Bryan Hoch and Michael Kolligian
ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Rodriguez homered twice and drove in the go-ahead run with a late single, collecting four RBIs and leading the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Rays on Friday evening at Tropicana Field.
Rodriguez connected for his 657th and 658th career homers, slugging a second-inning solo shot off starter Nathan Karns and a two-run, game-tying shot off Ernesto Frieri in the sixth. Rodriguez then knocked in pinch-runner Brett Gardner with the deciding run in the eighth, lining a full-count single to center field off Kevin Jepsen.
"We were talking in Spring Training; I don't think anyone knew what to expect, including myself," said Rodriguez, who missed last season while serving a drug suspension. "I've been working hard. Hopefully it keeps going."
Stephen Drew also hit his 100th career homer off Karns, who worked five innings of two-run ball in a no-decision. Allan Dykstra and Logan Forsythe hit back-to-back homers off Yankees starter Adam Warren in the fourth, with Dykstra's three-run shot marking his first Major League home run. Warren allowed four runs and was chased after four innings.
"[The homers] brought a lot of energy, but that's what this team's done all season," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. " If we're behind, it seems like we claw our way back. We did it again tonight, but we just didn't come out on top."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Twice as nice for A-Rod: Rodriguez, who ranks fifth on the all-time homers list, celebrated the 61st multi-homer game of his career with Nos. 657 and 658. At No. 4 on the career list is Willie Mays, with 660. Rodriguez's first homer came on a 92-mph Karns fastball, a solo shot that was estimated at 471 feet by MLB Advanced Media. Rodriguez's sixth-inning homer off Frieri came on a 94-mph fastball and was calculated at 400 feet. It was Rodriguez's first multi-homer game since May 23, 2012, vs. Kansas City.
"He was really good. Without Alex, we're going to lose that ballgame," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Four RBIs, two home runs, a big hit in the eighth inning to put us ahead. Just a great night for Alex." More >
Dykstra and Forsythe go back to back: The back-to-back homers in the fourth inning were the first for the Rays since Sept. 14, 2014, when Evan Longoria and James Loney went deep against Baltimore.
"Definitely exciting," Dykstra said. "The timing was definitely awesome. To get my first home run at that time was very special." More >
Shift haunts Rays: With a defensive shift in place and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera positioned on the right side of the infield, what would have otherwise been a routine grounder to short turned out to be a leadoff single by Carlos Beltran in the decisive eighth inning. Gardner pinch-ran and later stole second, enabling him to score what proved to be the game-winning run on Rodriguez's two-out single to center off losing pitcher Jepsen.
"That will not deter us from doing that again. It was the right call," said Cash. "We've got hundreds of at-bats, hundreds of ground balls, that give us reason to do what we do, and our infielders accept it, our pitchers accept it, we all accept it. When a guy hits one through the shift, you tip your cap to it."
Rogers, bullpen take over: Warren's second start of the season was a clunker, as he permitted four runs and six hits and was gone by the fifth, but long reliever Esmil Rogers retired seven of eight batters to keep the Yankees in the game. Justin Wilson struck out the only man he faced, and Dellin Betances logged three outs, getting the ball to Andrew Miller for the final four outs. Miller has converted all three of his save chances this year.
"It's early, but I think, ideally, we have seven guys that can pitch in any situation," Miller said. "I think the stuff is there." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Stephen and J.D. Drew (242 career homers) are the eighth pair of brothers in Major League history to each hit at least 100 homers, joining Joe and Vince DiMaggio, Sandy and Roberto Alomar, Clete and Ken Boyer, Bret and Aaron Boone, Bob and Irish Meusel, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr., and Dmitri and Delmon Young.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Masahiro Tanaka takes the ball for his third start of the season as the Yankees take on the Rays at 7:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Tanaka says he is still building arm strength as he comes off five innings of four-run ball vs. Boston, in which he picked up the win as the Yanks rolled to a 14-4 victory. He beat the Rays last May 3 in his only career start vs. Tampa Bay.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi will look to build on his early-season success when he takes the ball against the Yankees. The 25-year-old right-hander has been brilliant in his first two starts, allowing one run and four hits in 14 2/3 innings of work, while holding opposing hitters to an .085 batting average.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. Michael Kolligian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.