Ellsbury the catalyst as Yanks run past Rays

Ellsbury the catalyst as Yanks run past Rays

NEW YORK -- Jacoby Ellsbury executed the first straight steal of home by a Yankees player in nearly 15 years, Brian McCann homered and drove in three runs and the Yankees held on for a 6-3 victory over the Rays on Friday at Yankee Stadium.

Ellsbury's fifth-inning dash carried him headfirst past catcher Curt Casali, tying the game at 3 after he took advantage of left-hander Matt Moore, who was attempting to work from the windup.

Ellsbury steals home

"It doesn't happen very often," Ellsbury said. "As a player, you're like, 'Hey, did that just happen?' And then when you're running down the line, you're just hoping you got a big enough lead and everything works out. But, yeah, it's exciting. It's the ultimate adrenaline rush for a basestealer."

McCann's two-run shot

McCann hit a two-run homer in the second inning and delivered an opposite-field, go-ahead RBI single off Moore in the sixth. The Yankees pulled away in the eighth as Ellsbury -- a midgame injury replacement for Aaron Hicks -- delivered a two-out, two-run double.

McCann's go-ahead single

Ivan Nova picked up the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings of relief behind starter CC Sabathia, who allowed three runs and nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. Logan Forsythe had a two-run double and Brandon Guyer knocked a run-scoring single for Tampa Bay.

Ellsbury steals home

There he goes! Ellsbury's steely nerves paid dividends, as he recorded his second career steal of home. It was the first straight steal of home by a Yankee since Derek Jeter stole home on May 5, 2001, at Baltimore, and the first steal of home of any kind by a Bomber since Chris Young did so on Sept. 13, 2014, at Baltimore, as part of a double steal. Ellsbury previously stole home in a nationally televised Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park on April 26, 2009, when he victimized Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.  More >

"It was a heads-up play on Jacoby's part," Gardner said. "He caught them off guard. I never really understood why guys throw out of the windup with a man on third. It never made too much sense to me."

Nothing to balk at: With runners on first and second and Brett Gardner facing a 3-1 count with two outs, home-plate umpire Will Little called Moore for a balk, advancing the runners to second and third. The balk set up Ellsbury to do the almost unthinkable, a game-tying steal of home.

Yankees move runners on a balk

"I hadn't had a balk called on me since ... I don't remember the last time," Moore said. "But kind of like that, the bump-and-go thing, I don't feel like that's something that I usually do. Just not a very good inning for me."  More >

Nova locks it: Yankees manager Joe Girardi offered an early hook to Sabathia, lifting the veteran after just 80 pitches, though Tampa Bay made plenty of loud contact off the lefty. Nova quieted those bats in his fourth relief appearance of the year, striking out two before handing the ball over to the late-inning tandem of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, who struck out five of the six batters they faced.

Nova's hitless relief earns win

"I feel really good when I turn it over to our bullpen," manager Joe Girardi said. "They've done a really good job all year, especially the two at the back end. But I think you've got to give Nova a lot of credit tonight. He did a tremendous job tonight; comes in, gets us a big out in the fifth, gives us two more innings and sets it up for those guys, and bridges the gap."  More >

Moore does less: Moore came into the day possessing a 2.95 ERA over three starts in large part because of his ability to keep the ball out of play. Moore had struck out 21 batters and allowed just 15 hits in 18 1/3 innings this season, but on Friday, the left-hander allowed a season-high eight hits and struck out a season-low five batters en route to allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings.

"He probably wasn't quite as sharp as we've seen him, but he still threw the ball well and gave us a chance to win the ballgame," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Moore.

"I wasn't thinking about throwing a strike in that moment. It was just like, 'Get the ball there.' Even if I walk him and he tags him out, we're out of the inning." -- Moore, about the pitch on which Ellsbury stole home

Sabathia passed Hall of Fame left-hander Warren Spahn to claim sole possession of 25th place on the all-time strikeouts list with his 2,584th career punchout, a third-inning "K" of Steven Souza Jr.  More >

Sabathia passes Spahn

The Yankees challenged a call at first base in the third inning, as Steve Pearce was ruled to have reached on an infield hit to third baseman Chase Headley. A review of one minute, 36 seconds confirmed that Mark Teixeira was off the first-base bag when he received the throw. The Yankees are 0-for-2 in challenges this season.

Hicks exited the game in the fifth with what the Yankees said was a sore left shoulder sustained while the outfielder attempted a fourth-inning dive for Guyer's RBI single. The Yankees added that no tests are scheduled and that Hicks is day to day.  More >

Hicks is shaken up

Rays: Tampa Bay fans will get a glimpse of the future on Saturday when the club's top prospect, Blake Snell, makes his Major League debut. The 23-year-old left-hander was 1-1 with a 2.51 ERA in three starts at Triple-A Durham and has struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings across his Minor League career.

Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.06 ERA) will take the ball coming off his first victory of the season, an outing in which he outpitched former NPB teammate Hisashi Iwakuma with seven innings of three-run (two earned) ball against the Mariners. Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three career starts vs. the Rays.

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Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.