NEW YORK -- Brett Gardner homered in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees celebrated their first walk-off victory of the season, posting a 3-2 win over the Rays on Saturday and spoiling the Major League debut of touted prospect Blake Snell.
Gardner slugged his second career walk-off homer with two outs off right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, having also tied the game in the seventh inning with a run-scoring single that struck left-hander Xavier Cedeno.
"I felt good about getting a good pitch to hit," Gardner said. "I think [Ramirez] was probably trying to go away and he went middle in, and I put a good swing on it. I felt good at the plate, felt like I was seeing the ball well, and was fortunate to get a good pitch to hit."
Rated as the No. 12 prospect in the Majors by MLBPipeline.com, Snell struck out six in an impressive debut, limiting the Yankees to a run and two hits over five innings with a walk. New York's only run off Snell came on a first-inning wild pitch.
"I was impressed. Good arm," said Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who saw a nasty curveball for Snell's first career strikeout. "Live heater and you don't see many curveballs like that. He's got a bright future."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A little goes a long way: The Yankees tied the game in the seventh inning without needing to get the ball out of the infield, thanks to a pair of walks and a catcher's interference call with Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate. Gardner cashed in the tying run with a lined single that struck pitcher Cedeno and rolled away, allowing McCann to score. New York's first-inning run was of the small-ball variety as well: Carlos Beltran scored on a Snell wild pitch.
"It's a little different, it's not how you'd draw it up," Gardner said. "But at this point, we'll take it any way we can get it. Some guys gave us big at-bats, trying to make those guys throw strikes and just pass the baton off to the next guy and keep the lineup moving. I felt like we did a pretty good job of that."
Stellar Snell: Snell struggled out of the gate, needing 24 pitches to get through a tumultuous first inning where he surrendered his first Major League run via a wild pitch. But after that, the lefty settled into the brand of dominance that made him such a highly touted prospect in the first place. The 23-year-old allowed just one more hit over his next four innings and struck out six. More >
"[The jitters] were there. I didn't think they were. It was more like I was really anxious," Snell said. "I was trying to do too much. But after that I feel like I kind of got into my groove. From what I did, you can say [I got over them]. But yeah, I felt more confident. I didn't feel as anxious out there."
Tanaka delivers: Tanaka's goal was to give the Yankees distance and he fulfilled that, striking out seven while holding Tampa Bay to a pair of runs. Tanaka faced the minimum over his first three frames and was able to limit the damage to one run despite being knocked around in a 27-pitch fourth inning. Kiermaier's homer in the fifth came on a cutter that stayed up, but Tanaka retired eight of the next nine hitters he faced to keep the game close. More >
"I really couldn't find anything that was working perfect for me, but I think the key was that I was able to hang in there in the key moments," Tanaka said through an interpreter.
"Every time I went out, I kind of just would look and just enjoy it. It was something I'll never forget for sure." -- Snell, on making his debut at Yankee Stadium
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ellsbury reached base on a catcher's interference call in the seventh inning. It was the third catcher's interference call of the year on Ellsbury, who has tallied 17 such calls since 2007, leading the Majors over that span. Carl Crawford is second with 16.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Yankees successfully challenged a call at second base in the top of the third inning, as Kiermaier was initially ruled to be safe on a stolen-base attempt. After review, the call was overturned and Kiermaier was out on the tag by Didi Gregorius.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: The Rays will trot their third straight left-handed starter out on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET when Drew Smyly (0-2, 2.91 ERA) takes the mound. Smyly is winless on the season, but he's been pitching rather well, posting an 11.22 K/9 ratio and holding the second-best WHIP (0.65) in the Majors.
Yankees: The Yankees will conclude their homestand on Sunday afternoon, with right-hander Michael Pineda (1-1, 5.29) taking the ball against the Rays. Pineda held the A's to two runs and seven hits over six innings in his last start, striking out seven while taking a no-decision. He is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in seven career starts vs. Tampa Bay.