ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If nothing else, the Yankees are keeping things interesting.
Not until DJ LeMahieu made a diving catch of Francisco Mejia’s towering infield pop-up that got lost in the roof of Tropicana Field did the Yankees secure their second straight win over the Rays, 3-1 in 10 innings.
“Someone said there was never a doubt,’’ LeMahieu said of the play. “I said, ‘There definitely was some doubt there.’ I was glad I could catch it.”
It was another tense victory after the Yankees dropped three of four in Boston over the weekend, and it came on a night when the Yankees were on the verge of landing another big bat to the lineup.
As they appeared headed toward a trade for Texas slugger Joey Gallo, according to sources, they got the most important hit of the night from one of their current sluggers.
After starting the game on the bench as a late scratch due to COVID-related doctors’ appointments, Aaron Judge knocked in the winning run in the 10th.
Judge’s hard grounder up the middle off Pete Fairbanks was mishandled by shortstop Wander Franco, which allowed extra-runner Gio Urshela to score from second to give the Yankees the lead. It was the Yankees’ first hit with runners in scoring position on the night.
“Better late than never,’’ Judge said of his arrival. “I was able to get here when I did and help the team in the 10th.”
After Fairbanks left with an injury, a wild pitch by Andrew Kittredge allowed Greg Allen to score from third after he’d reached on a hit by pitch to make it a two-run game.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the bottom of the inning and walked Randy Arozarena with one out.
Nelson Cruz then pinch hit for Joey Wendle after Cruz had been scratched with a foot contusion. A Chapman wild pitch sent the runners to second and third with one out before Chapman got Cruz swinging for a second consecutive night.
That brought up Mejia, who hit the pop-up that would have likely scored both runners had it landed.
“When balls go that high here, you don’t see them for a period of time,’’ LeMahieu said. “You’re hoping you’re in the right spot.”
Chapman finished off a game in which the bullpen pitched five no-hit innings.
They got five terrific innings from starter Nestor Cortes Jr. before Lucas Luetge tossed two shutout innings and scoreless innings from Zack Britton and Chad Green.
They had a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth, when Gary Sanchez singled to lead off the inning and was replaced by pinch-runner Tyler Wade.
After Brett Gardner flied to right, Wade moved to second on a balk by Wisler with Urshela at the plate. Wade was then doubled off second on Urshela’s lineout to second.
Cortes helped the Yankees on a night their bullpen was somewhat depleted after the Tuesday night trade of Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson to Cincinnati. Cortes pitched three scoreless innings before faltering in the fourth.
Franco led off with an infield hit. After Cortes retired Austin Meadows and Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe delivered an RBI double to right to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Cortes then hit Arozarena with a pitch before Wendle lined out.
Still, Cortes gave the Yankees everything they could want Wednesday, allowing just the one run in five innings over the 79-pitch outing.
The Yankees tied it in the top of the fifth. Urshela reached on an error by Wendle at third. Allen followed with a double to right that sent Urshela to third. Judge pinch hit for Estevan Florial and struck out.
LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly scored Urshela to make it 1-1. A Gleyber Torres lineout ended the inning.
The Yankees will try to close out a sweep with Gerrit Cole on the mound Thursday afternoon.
“It’s not easy to win here,’’ Green said. “They have a good team. It’s tough to score runs here. Especially coming off a tough weekend in Boston, it’s big.”