After a lost weekend in Detroit, the Yankees have shown signs of life back in The Bronx.
For a second straight night, they won a tight game over the AL East-leading Rays, hanging on for a 4-3 victory Wednesday.
Aroldis Chapman, who has been dominant all season, walked Taylor Walls and pinch-hitter Mike Zunino to start the ninth. But after a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake, Chapman, with his mechanics admittedly off, recovered to strike out Randy Arozarena and Ji-Man Choi. Choi worked a full count before Chapman finally got him with a slider on the eighth pitch of the at-bat. The Yankees closer then retired Austin Meadows on a comebacker to end it.
“I feel like everyone was probably on the edge of their seat,’’ Clint Frazier said. “When [Chapman] finds his rhythm, things are gonna go in his favor. Once he did, he had ice in his veins and closed it out for us.”
And it helped the Yankees beat Tampa Bay for the fourth time in their last six meetings after they had lost five of their first six.
“It feels different playing these guys,’’ Frazier said. “Tensions are high at times. It’s back and forth and to come back two games in a row is great.”
The Yankees got four early runs thanks to a two-run home run by Gio Urshela and a two-run single by Frazier, whose homer won Tuesday’s game in the 11th inning.
Jordan Montgomery allowed just one earned run in 6 ¹/₃ innings before turning it over to the bullpen. The relievers backed up their stellar performance on Tuesday with another 2 ²/₃ shutout innings, extending the bullpen’s run to 17 ²/₃ consecutive scoreless innings.
Urshela, who had snapped an 0-for-16 skid Tuesday, put the Yankees on the board quickly Wednesday. He hit a first-inning, two-run homer into the seats in right to put the Yankees up 2-0 against lefty Shane McClanahan.
In the top of the second, Urshela also saved a run. With runners on first and second and two out after Montgomery had allowed a pair of singles, Urshela snared a hard grounder to his left by Walls and made a strong throw to first to end the inning.
The Rays got a run off Montgomery in the fourth. Austin Meadows led off with a single, moved to third on a Mike Brosseau double and scored on Manuel Margot’s ground ball to short — when Brosseau was thrown out at third, proving the Yankees aren’t the only ones capable of mistakes on the bases.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, Tampa Bay then went to Ryan Thompson to face Frazier.
Frazier came through again with a two-run single up the middle to make it 4-1.
Defense got the Yankees in trouble in the fifth.
Montgomery issued a leadoff walk to Walls, but got Phillips to ground to second. Instead of taking the easy out at first, Rougned Odor instead threw wildly to second base and Walls got to third.
Walls scored on a sacrifice fly to cut the Yankees’ lead to 4-2.
The Yankees kept Montgomery in the game to start the seventh despite the fact the lefty was approaching a season-high with 86 pitches entering the inning.
Montgomery failed to handle a Joey Wendle comebacker to open the inning. Walls singled and Montgomery got Phillips on a check swing, but the Rays completed a double steal to put runners on second and third with one out.
Jonathan Loaisiga came on and struck out Arozarena. Choi, pinch-hitting, drove in a run with an infield single.
Loaisiga got Meadows to ground out to preserve the slim lead and Chad Green tossed a scoreless eighth before Chapman picked up the save, giving the Yankees the chance to win the series Thursday.
“You’re gonna face adversity over the course of a season,’’ Boone said of the Yankees’ recent four-game losing streak. “You’ve got to be able to deal with it. We’re not playing anywhere near our best baseball and making too many mistakes. But I do like the way guys are competing right now.”