ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – New York went ahead with help from a key Tampa Bay error, Russell Martin homered and had three RBIs, and the Yankees regained sole possession of first-place in the AL East with a 6-4 win over the Rays on Wednesday night.
Eliot Johnson's errant throw to home plate that led to two runs in the seventh inning helped New York win for just the fifth time in 15 games.
New York sat atop the division standings by itself for 84 consecutive days — its longest streak since 2004 — until Tuesday night's 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay dropped the Yankees into a tie with Baltimore. They moved back into first place when the Orioles lost to Toronto 6-4. New York leads the Rays by 2 1-2 games.
Andruw Jones and Steve Pearce singled to start the seventh off Matt Moore (10-9) before Jayson Nix moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Derek Jeter, who had hits in his previous three at-bats, hit a grounder to Johnson. With the infield playing in, the second baseman's throw was off the mark allowing pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki and Pearce to score as the Yankees took a 6-4 lead.
Ben Zobrist drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which had won four in a row.
Jeter made a nice running, over-the-shoulder catch on Matt Joyce's flare with two on and two outs in the seventh. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his 36th save.
After blowing a two-run lead, the Yankees went up 4-3 on Martin's solo homer in the sixth. He entered hitting just .199.
Tampa Bay quickly pulled even at 4 on Luke Scott's first long ball since July 19 off Hirkoi Kuroda (13-10) later in the sixth.
After Alex Rodriguez, who returned Monday after missing 36 games with a broken left hand, had an RBI double, Martin drove in a pair on a double that made it 3-1 in the fourth.
Evan Longoria put the Rays ahead 1-0 on an RBI single in the first inning. Tampa Bay tied it 3-all in the fifth when Zobrist hit a two-run triple.
Kuorda gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings. Moore allowed six runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings.
NOTES: The announced crowd was just 16,711. ... New York held a team meeting before the game in which manager Joe Girardi said gave an opportunity "to talk about some of the things that we're going through." ... The Yankees are not planning to use a lot of small ball to try and help their struggling offense. "We're not the 'Bronx Bunters,'" Girardi said. ... New York LHP Andy Pettitte (broken left ankle) threw 16-pitches in a simulated game and will face hitters again this weekend. ... Tampa Bay RHP Jeff Niemann (right shoulder) could pitch again before the regular season ends. ... Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira (left calf) could run on Thursday. ... New York RHP Ivan Nova (right shoulder) felt fine one day after throwing batting practice.