St. Petersburg, FL – Lyle Overbay provided the winning margin with a solo homer in the top of the 11th inning, and the New York Yankees overcame a two-run deficit in the ninth to rally for a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
The Yankees trailed 3-1 entering the final at-bat before tying the game on a Brett Gardner single that followed Brennan Boesch's pinch-hit RBI double off Rays closer Fernando Rodney with two outs.
Ivan Nova (2-1) worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of 10th to earn the win and enable the Yankees to take their first series at Tropicana Field since Apr. 9-11, 2010.
New York had lost in 13 of its last 16 visits to St. Petersburg prior to Friday's 9-4 triumph in the opener of this three-game set.
"It doesn't seem like we've won a whole lot of games here the last few years, they've really had our number," Gardner remarked. "It feels good to come in here and win the first two and try to go for the sweep tomorrow."
The Rays were dealt a third straight defeat overall, while Matt Moore fell short of becoming the first nine-game winner in the majors this season despite holding the Yankees to one run and five hits through six innings of work.
Moore was matched for most of the afternoon by Vidal Nuno, with the Yankees' rookie charged with two runs allowed on five hits over six-plus frames.
Josh Lueke (0-2) was tagged with the loss after serving up Overbay's go-ahead blast.
The struggling Rodney came on to protect a 3-1 lead and retired the first two Yankee hitters in the ninth before Overbay worked a walk to keep New York's hopes alive. Boesch, called up from the minors earlier in the day, then lofted a fly ball that dropped fair just inside the left-field line to send home Overbay and bring up Gardner, who delivered a base hit to center on a 1-2 count that evened the score and eventually forced extras.
It was Rodney's fifth blown save in 10 chances this season.
"This has been really awkward to watch," said Rays manager Joe Maddon of Rodney's problems. "I think three of the blown saves have come on the last pitch. I've not lost any patience with him, honestly."
The Rays had a golden opportunity to take Rodney off the hook in the 10th after singles by Ryan Roberts and Evan Longoria and a walk to Ben Zobrist filled the sacks with one out. Nova managed to bear down and record a huge strikeout of James Loney, however, before getting Matt Joyce to ground out and keep the contest even.
Lueke also began the 11th with two straight outs, but Overbay hooked a fastball just inside the right-field foul pole to send the Yankees in front and Mariano Rivera tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to notch his 18th successful save opportunity to start the season.
"I've been missing fastballs all day," said Overbay afterward. "It was just good to get on top of one instead of being late and underneath it."
Nuno kept the Rays off balance throughout his second career major league start, which ended when gave up a leadoff single to Loney with the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Joyce then greeted reliever Shawn Kelley with a double down the right-field line that set up pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson's go-ahead base hit off Boone Logan.
Preston Claiborne took over for Logan and induced a grounder from Yunel Escobar that New York shortstop Jayson Nix fielded and fired home, with Joyce narrowly sliding under the tag to give Tampa Bay a 3-1 edge.
The Yankees did their damage against Moore early, as Gardner laced the young standout's fourth pitch of the day into the right-field corner for a double. Moore set down the next two hitters, but Travis Hafner came through with a clutch single up the middle to bring in the game's first run.
That score stood until the bottom of the fifth, when the Rays broke through against Nuno with a pair of doubles from Jose Molina and Desmond Jennings that knotted the contest at 1-1. The lefty had permitted just two hits and a walk over the first four frames.
New York failed to muster much offensively over the remainder of Moore's stint, though a two-out walk to Hafner followed by a David Adams single in the sixth put runners at the corners. Moore was able to get Ichiro Suzuki to ground into a fielder's choice, however, and end the mild threat.
Boesch was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre when the Yankees officially placed outfielder Curtis Granderson, who fractured his left knuckle after being hit by a pitch from the Rays' Cesar Ramos in Friday's opener ... The Rays suffered their first loss in Moore's 10 starts this season ... The Yankees improved their MLB-best record to 21-1 when scoring first this year ... Gardner and Suzuki each finished with two hits for New York, while Longoria went 2-for-5 one day after having a 16-game hit streak snapped.