ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Charlie Morton came up big again for the Tampa Bay Rays.
He struck out 10 in 5 2/3 innings to help the Rays split a four-game series with the AL East-leading New Yok Yankees, 2-1 on Sunday.
Morton (10-2) allowed one run, five hits and one walk in lowering his AL-best ERA to 2.32. The AL All-Star has given up two or fewer runs in 15 of 19 starts.
“I feel good about my body of work in the first half,” Morton said. “I think for the most part I kept the team in the game.”
Emilio Pagan, the fourth Tampa Bay reliever, worked the ninth to get his fifth save and complete the five-hitter.
Brett Gardner homered and James Paxton (5-4) gave up two runs and seven hits with 11 strikeouts over six innings for the Yankees, who have a 6 1/2 lead over Tampa Bay.
“We’re in a really good spot,” Gardner said. “Overall, I think the first half has gone really well for us. We played some good baseball. We’ve, obviously, dealt with a lot of adversity.”
New York has had 21 players in 24 stints on the injured list. Ace Luis Severino, reliever Dellin Betances and slugger Giancarlo Stanton are among 13 players currently on the IL.
New York took the first two games of the series, both in extra innings, before the Rays won Saturday on Travis d’Arnaud’s tiebreaking solo homer with two outs in the ninth.
“We were in every game, and they know that,” Rays left fielder Tommy Pham said.
“It could have gone four games to zero either way. That just shows how tough we play each other.”
D’Arnaud doubled leading off the first and scored when second-place hitter Pham hit a liner to center that resulted in a double when the Yankees left second base uncovered.
“It was heads-up by Pham,” New York manager Aaron Boone said.
Pham went to third on Yandy Diaz’s single and came home to put the Rays up 2-0 on a grounder by Avisail Garcia.
Gardner homered for the third consecutive game on a second-inning solo shot. It was his third homer in 17 at-bats against Morton.
Morton worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the third by striking out Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge, and getting a fly ball from Didi Gregorius.
“There were a couple of jams that he got out of,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “To do it against that lineup, which is as good as anybody in baseball, it shows how much he was on today.”
Judge took a third strike called by plate umpire Vic Carapazza, which the slugger and Boone thought was low.
“I really thought Judgy worked a walk there, which is a big play in that game,” Boone said. “Very frustrating.”
Judge struck out in all three at-bats against Morton.
“He can work that two-seam fastball on both sides of the plate,” Judge said. “And then he keeps you honest with that big curveball. It’s a tough at-bat.”
Yankees All-Star INFs DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres were out of the starting lineup. “Just feel like both of those guys need a day,” Boone said. “These are guys that we’ve leaned on heavily. We’ve been through a really tough stretch of games with obviously going over to London.” New York C Gary Sanchez was the DH, while Rays OF Austin Meadows also got a break.
Yankees: Luke Voit (abdominal strain) ran and did agility drills in the outfield, and worked out at first base. He could be back Friday.
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow, out since May 11 with a strained right forearm, will resume throwing in about a week. “We’re really encouraged by the way he feels,” Cash said. “We’ll get him throwing again and see where we go.”
INF Breyvic Valera was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and started at second base. He had a single in three at-bats. … LHP Daniel Camarena was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after spending one game with the big league team.
Yankees: Host Toronto Friday night.
Rays: Play Friday night at Baltimore.
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