A-Rod's HR leads bats behind Tanaka for win

A-Rod's HR leads bats behind Tanaka for win

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Rodriguez's two-run homer backed a solid start by Masahiro Tanaka to lead the Yankees to a 4-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Rodriguez's sixth home run of the season came against Rays starter Chris Archer and capped a three-run Yankees sixth that saw the Rays make two errors in the inning. For Rodriguez, the blast was career homer No. 693 and his 30th career home run at Tropicana Field.

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"It's always good to produce and drive the ball like that," Rodriguez said. "If you look at my last 30 to 35 at-bats, I've felt pretty good, and I've been driving the ball a lot better than the first 100."

Carlos Beltran added a solo home run against Archer in the eighth to put the Yankees up, 4-0, before Steve Pearce launched his own solo shot in the ninth as the Rays avoided a shutout.

Pearce's solo home run

"Offensively, we knew coming in it was a tough matchup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "[Tanaka] does such a good job of keeping the ball down. It's a compliment to a pitcher when all the stuff looks the same from the side, but it's all different. The cutter, the slider, the split and even the fastball. He had it all working really well."

Archer, who allowed just one earned run in eight innings, fell to 3-6 on the season. Tanaka allowed no runs on two hits in seven innings to move to 3-0.

Tanaka's dominant start vs. Rays

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A-Rod back with a blast: Rodriguez's first hit since being activated from the disabled list went a long way, as his two-run blast off Archer was the third-longest home run by a Yankee this season, estimated at 440 feet by Statcast™. Rodriguez savored the drive with a little bat flip. He was hitless in his first six at-bats since returning from a strained right hamstring. Beltran added his 11th homer in the eighth off Archer.

Beltran's solo homer to right

"You get three RBIs out of them and we scored four runs, so it's nice to see them hit the ball out of the ballpark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's always nice to see. We scratched the one across, and Alex comes up with the big hit to give us a little separation." More >

Escaping the first: Archer has not done well in the first inning this season, bringing a 10.80 ERA into Friday night's start. After allowing a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury before walking Brett Gardner, it looked like more of the same. But Archer retired Beltran and Brian McCann on popouts before striking out Rodriguez swinging to end the inning.

"[Getting out of the first] was nice, and I was happy about it for 60 seconds, and then I moved on," Archer said. " … I'm going pitch by pitch. I'm not thinking about what happens in the past. I'm not thinking about a few pitches ahead. So I reflected on it for about 60 seconds in between innings, took a deep breath and moved forward."

Tanaka sets 'em down: Tanaka seemed to have his good stuff working right out of the gate, setting down the first 12 Rays he faced before Pearce opened the fifth inning with a clean single to center field. That inning gave Tanaka an opportunity to flash his mobility off the mound, as he snared Logan Morrison's comebacker and ran down Pearce between second and third bases to record an unassisted putout.

Tanaka does it himself

"[The outing was] maybe not as sharp as it looked," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "They got some good hits, but I think our defense played a spectacular job and helped me out. Overall, I think it was a really good game." More >

Miscues on defense: Troublesome defense by the Rays led to a three-run sixth for the Yankees. First, Archer threw wildly on a pickoff attempt to first base that allowed Gardner to advance from first to third. Beltran then hit a ball to second baseman Taylor Motter with the Rays playing their infield in. Motter looked home then dropped the ball, allowing Beltran to be safe at first. McCann followed with an RBI fielder's choice before Rodriguez homered to put the Yankees up, 3-1. More >

McCann plates Gardner with out

QUOTABLE
"That's my version of a bat flip, yeah. At 40, you don't have too much cool style. All that has left me. I don't know if I ever had it, actually." -- A-Rod

A-Rod on his return, homer

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The home run Archer surrendered to Rodriguez was the 10th that he's allowed to a right-handed hitter this season. He allowed just 10 total home runs to right-handers last season.

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: Michael Pineda (2-5, 6.34 ERA) heads to the mound Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET looking to continue the progress he showed in his last start, when he picked up a win by holding the A's to three runs and six hits over six innings. The location of Pineda's fastball and slider improved in that outing, though he still is working on mechanical issues out of the stretch position.

Rays: Matt Moore (1-3, 5.47 ERA) will start after lasting five innings or fewer in his past four starts. He had one 1-2-3 inning in those four starts. In four career starts at home against the Yankees, Moore is 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA.

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Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

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.