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NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05: John Ryan Murphy #66 of the New York Yankees slides in safely to score a run in the fifth inning past the tag of Luke Maile #46 of the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on September 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Series Recap: Yankees vs. Rays

The Yankees took two out of three this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays in workman-like fashion. Every series is wildly important now as we hit the post-Labor Day stretch, but the Toronto Blue Jays keep playing solid baseball. They continue to maintain a slim lead on the Yankees and the rest of the AL East as the MLB head into the final 3 weeks of the season.

Home runs came in bunches for the home side in the first game. Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Gregory Bird all homered in separate innings to lead the Yankees to a 5-2 win. A-Rod’s dinger was the big blow as it got his team off to an early start; his 2-run shot made it 2-0 in the 2nd inning. McCann followed up with a blast of his own in the 4th to make it a 3-run game, and Bird’s 2-run dinger made it 5-1 in the 7th inning. All 3 homers came off of Jake Odorizzi, who struck out 8 but gave up those 5 runs in 6.2 innings. While they only managed 4 hits, the Yankees still out-slugged the mediocre Rays lineup.

That lineup was held in check by Luis Severino for 6.1 innings, a career high for the rookie. He allowed 7 hits and walked 3, but limited the damage to just one run. Evan Longoria hit a solo homer in the 6th that pushed Tampa closer, but the rest of the starting 9 couldn’t string anything together. The Rays also scored a run off of Andrew Miller in the 9th, but it was all for naught as he was able to strike out Richie Shaffer and get Bradnon Guyer to fly out to end it. James Loney had the top game offensively for either side, with two hits, and J.P Arencibia added an RBI for his ball club.

It seemed like the Rays took a page out of the Yankees’ book in the second game, scoring all of their runs in the early innings and holding on for a 3-2 win. They snapped Nathan Eovaldi’s unbeaten streak at 13 starts with a run in the 2nd and 2 in the 3rd. Although unusual, the decisive third run came on an Asdrubal Cabrera single in the 3rd inning. Eovaldi did what he had been doing for most of the year- keeping his team in the game- but it wasn’t enough in this start. He lasted 5.1 innings and gave up all three runs while striking out 7 and walking 4. Kevin Kiermaier had 2 hits to continue an surprisingly good season, and John Jaso also had two hits out of the leadoff spot.

Matt Moore didn’t make it out of the 5th inning for the Rays in his first start since coming back from Triple-A Durham, but he pitched well nonetheless. He gave up just 3 hits and walked 2 in that time, but didn’t qualify for the win. The Yankees made it close in the 5th with 2 runs, including an RBI double by Didi Gregorius, but couldn’t gain any more ground in the late innings. Chase Headley led the team with 2 hits and Gregorius and Brett Gardner had an RBI each.

A 4-run 6th propelled the Yankees to a rubber game victory, and a series win at home. Those crucial runs came off of 2 homers by McCann and Rodriguez to put the Yankees ahead 4-3. Chris Archer was tagged for those 4 runs in 6.1 innings, while striking out just 5. Gardner and Gregorius added insurance runs in the 7th and 8th to give them a cushion that they would not relinquish, ultimately winning 6-4. Jacoby Ellsbury, A-Rod and Gregorius each had 2 hits and McCann led with 3 RBI.

Ivan Nova pitched well in his start, giving up 3 runs in 6 innings. He was tagged for 3 early runs, including a Kiermaier homer, but was bailed out by his clutch offense in that 6th frame. The Yankee bullpen was shaky as Dellin Betances gave up an 8th inning homer to Cabrera and Miller put the tying run on second with 2 outs in the 9th, but he struck out Guyer to end it again.

Every win is huge for the Yankees, so an in-house series win is clutch with a series against Toronto looming next weekend.

Offensive MVP: Gregory Bird- Bird was the word, as he went 3-10 with a double and a homer.

Cold Streak: Carlos Beltran- He went 1-11 and made no contribution whatsoever.

Pitcher of the Series: Luis Severino- A career-high 6.1 innings of 1-run ball for the youngster.

Mound Misery: Nathan Eovaldi- 5.1 innings wasn’t what the team expected out of him, especially after his recent domination.