NEW YORK (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash has had to defend his strategy using relievers as starters time and time again.
At least this time, the defense came after the formula led his team to a victory.
Wilmer Font held the high-scoring Yankees in check and the Rays stopped New York 3-1 Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep.
“We’re doing everything we can (and) what we think is right to win games,” Cash said. “When we win, yeah, we like it. When we lose, it’s grueling.”
In his third start of the season, Font turned in his best performance of the year in any role, allowing just one run in 4 2-3 innings with five strikeouts. The right-hander, who also has eight relief appearances, matched a career-high with 74 pitches.
Tampa Bay, which has been hurt by injuries to its rotation, employed a reliever to open for the 15th time in 29 games. Entering the game, relievers working as starters had allowed 13 earned runs in 18 innings.
“Today he gave us a huge boost,” Cash said of the 28-year old right-hander. “He probably got a little deeper in the game than what we even anticipated.”
Matt Duffy drove in two runs with a second-inning single for his first multi-RBI game in over a month. The infielder, who missed 2017 while undergoing two Achilles surgeries, is hitting .352 (25 for 71) with seven RBI over his last 18 contests.
“I typically don’t see CC too well,” Duffy said. “That wasn’t the greatest pitch to hit, but when you’re going well, those seem to fall.”
Carlos Gomez had an RBI double as Tampa Bay scored all three runs in the second against CC Sabathia (4-2). The left-hander pitched into the eighth inning for the first time this season and struck out 10 for just the second time since the start of 2014.
“I just tried to be really aggressive because they were aggressive,” Sabathia said.
Tampa Bay defeated New York for the first time this season. The Yankees opened the season with five straight wins, outscoring the Rays 31-10 over the games, and was trying for a four-game sweep. The Rays are 5-18 in their last 23 games at Yankee Stadium.
Chaz Roe (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory. Sergio Romo, who has also drawn five starts this season, closed for his third save in six chances.
Rookie Willy Adames singled to lead off the Rays second. Adeiny Hechavarria, who missed nearly a month with a strained hamstring, singled for the first of his three hits. Gomez doubled and Duffy delivered a two-out single.
Hechavarria also robbed rookie sensation Gleyber Torres of a base hit with dive and throw from shortstop in the seventh inning.
New York matched its lowest run total at home this season.
Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius worked two-out walks against Jose Alvarado in the fifth, but the hard-throwing lefty struck out Giancarlo Stanton on four pitches.
In the eighth, Diego Castillo struck out Gary Sanchez on three pitches to strand another runner.
Aaron Hicks homered off Font in the fifth — it was actually the second homer of the day. Hours earlier, the Yankees held their 72nd Old-Timers’ Day and Nick Swisher, making his debut with the former players, hit a long drive to right field.
Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Reggie Jackson were joined by the likes of Don Larsen, Willie Randolph, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi. Current New York manager Aaron Boone also took part for the first time.
Rays: Tampa Bay will start a reliever for the third consecutive day when RHP Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.55 ERA) draws the start as the Rays open a three-game series at Houston. He’ll be opposed by RHP Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.40 ERA).
Yankees: New York heads to Washington for a makeshift doubleheader Monday. The teams will resume a suspended game from May 15 before a traditional nine-inning game follows. With heavy rain falling, play was halted after 5 1-2 innings with the teams tied at 3. The teams were set to resume play, and their interleague series, one day later, but rain continued to fall and both events were postponed. Boone will turn to his bullpen to begin the day and RHP Sonny Gray (4-4, 4.96 ERA) takes the mound in game two.
Yankees: OF Brett Gardner (knee) was held out of the lineup with a little soreness.