Wild times: Yanks walk off, gain ground

Wild times: Yanks walk off, gain ground

NEW YORK -- The Yankees started playing their best baseball when a crop of Baby Bombers showed up in town, and as their postseason chances improve on a nightly basis, that surge shows no sign of slowing.

Tyler Austin took another turn as the hero on Thursday, slugging a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Yankees continued their "nothing to lose" push with a 5-4 victory over the Rays, marking their fifth straight win and the 11th in 15 games.

"I've just been trying to help the team win any way I can," said Austin, who clubbed the deciding blast off Erasmo Ramirez. "I think everybody in this clubhouse believes that we can make a push at this thing and get into the postseason, and it's an exciting time right now."

Soaking it in: Austin hits first walk-off homer

Austin discusses walk-off homer

Brian McCann homered twice as the Yankees (74-65) moved within two games of the second American League Wild Card spot. Tommy Layne picked up the victory for the Yankees, who trail the Red Sox by four games in the AL East.

"They're excited in there, and they should be; they're playing extremely well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've had some big series we've been able to win. I thought tonight was a great effort by everyone involved. A lot of guys contributed. I do think they are getting that feeling."

Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. hit a pair of solo homers for the Rays. Kiermaier cleared the wall twice off Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who also served up one of Souza's blasts while lasting just four-plus innings. Souza's second homer was a game-tying shot in the sixth inning off rookie Jonathan Holder.

"Tough loss," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I felt like we did a lot of things right."

Relaxed at plate, Souza goes deep twice

Rays starter Alex Cobb permitted four runs (three earned) and nine hits over six innings. Austin's home run was the 13th Ramirez has allowed this season, the most by any Major League reliever and the most by a Rays reliever since Al Reyes gave up 13 in 2007.

Hottest teams in AL, NL: New York, New York!

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mac attack: McCann homered in his first two at-bats of the evening, launching a long blast off Cobb in the second inning that landed in a suite area above the second deck in right field, then following it with a line-drive blast into the second deck in the fourth inning. They were the 18th and 19th homers for McCann, who has enjoyed 14 multihomer games in his career, three of which came this season.

McCann's two-homer game

"It's nice. You want to pull your weight around here," McCann said. "For a large part of the season, I haven't been doing that. Tonight, it was nice to get through some baseballs and backspin them." More >

Two with two: For the second time this season, the Rays had two players each hit a pair of home runs in the same game. Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison did it June 5 against the Twins, and Kiermaier and Souza did it Thursday night. It was the third multihomer game of the season for Souza, but his first since April, when he hit two April 6 at home against Toronto and April 24 at Yankee Stadium against Michael Pineda.

Souza Jr.'s two-homer game

"I just feel locked in right now at the plate," said Kiermaier, who has three home runs and is 7-for-9 the past two days. "I'm never going to be a power guy by any means, but I do have the strength to hit for power at times."

Balk reversed: The fifth inning saw a rarity, as Girardi convinced the umpiring crew to reverse a balk call on Jonathan Holder that initially forced home Logan Forsythe with the tying run. Holder had moved his glove awkwardly while on the rubber, prompting home-plate umpire Mike Everitt to call a balk, but Girardi asked all four umpires to converge and discuss the call. The crew agreed that Holder was simply asking for another sign and overturned the call; Forsythe was sent back to third base and stranded there.

Balk call reversed

"Ultimately, it was probably 50-50 on the [Rays'] bench," said manager Kevin Cash, who briefly went out and asked Everitt to explain the change. "Some guys thought it was a balk. Some didn't."

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In the 162 games the Rays have played against the Yankees in New York, only three players have had more than one multihomer game. One is Souza, who did it in April and again Thursday. The other two are Longoria (once in 2009, twice in '13) and Carlos Pena (in '07 and '10).

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: Left-hander Blake Snell (5-7, 3.39 ERA), who made his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium in April, gets the start in Friday night's 7:05 p.m. ET game.

Yankees: Michael Pineda (6-11, 5.10 ERA) is set to make his 28th start of the season on Friday as the Yankees host the Rays. The right-hander hasn't won since Aug. 5 vs. Cleveland, and he served up five runs in six innings to the Rays last time he saw them on July 31. Pineda has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in 13 starts, and allowed at least five earned runs in 10 other outings.

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

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York and covered the Rays on Thursday.

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