ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Post All-Star break, the Yankees' rotation continues to look shaky. Monday night was A.J. Burnett's turn.
Showing virtually no command from the start, Burnett put himself in a 4-1 hole after two innings, though he did manage to keep the damage there, allowing the Yankees to rally eventually.
Russell Martin drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the ninth that gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory over the Rays on another strange -- and long -- night at Tropicana Field.
The game followed the Rays' 16-inning, 1-0 loss to the Red Sox that ended at 1:54 a.m. Monday. Monday night included an 18-minute power delay in the top of the fifth because of a lightning strike nearby that knocked out a bank of lights on the first-base side.
"I think this is an important series for us,'' Joe Girardi said afterward. "These are four important games.''
The Yankees stayed 1½ games behind the Red Sox and moved 6½ ahead of the Rays. The Yankees worked their way back, scoring once in the fifth, twice in the eighth and once in the ninth.
Curtis Granderson led off the ninth with a single against lefthander Alex Torres, making his major-league debut, and stole second with one out. Granderson moved to third on Robinson Cano's groundout before an intentional walk to Nick Swisher and an unintentional one to Andruw Jones. Martin got ahead 2-and-1 and worked a seven-pitch walk to bring in Granderson to make it 5-4.
Torres, sent back to Triple-A Durham after the game, was going to be out there a while. Joe Maddon, having used nine pitchers the night before, didn't have many options.
"When you get to their bullpen, they're not going to have all their guys to use, so they can't really match up like they normally would,'' Martin said. "It helps you out strategywise a little bit.''
Mariano Rivera earned his 24th save with a 1-2-3 ninth, part of stellar relief that included Hector Noesi (12/3 innings) and David Robertson (one inning).
The Yankees got only three hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings off Alex Cobb, 23, making his sixth start in the majors and first against them.
Trailing 4-2 in the eighth, they continued their comeback against lefthander Cesar Ramos, with the first two batters reaching. After Ramos got pinch hitter Jones, Kyle Farnsworth faced Martin, who singled to left to load the bases. Brett Gardner hit an opposite-field single -- making him 11-for-19 on this trip -- to bring in Cano and make it 4-3.
Eduardo Nuñez beat out a potential double-play grounder, aided by Gardner's hard slide into second, to get Swisher in to tie it at 4. "You have to do what you can to get that run across,'' Gardner said of the slide.
Mark Teixeira's single to deep second in the fifth brought in Gardner to cut the deficit to 4-2. With Cano at bat and the count full, lightning struck, delaying the game at 8:54 p.m. When play resumed, Cano grounded out.
Derek Jeter's seventh-inning single gave him 3,008 hits, passing Al Kaline for sole possession of 26th place.
It was a third poor start -- to go along with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia -- in five games since the All-Star break. Burnett, however, has a relatively firm grip on a rotation spot, regardless of what general manager Brian Cashman does before the non-waivers trade deadline. The same can't be said of Colon, who pitches Tuesday, and Garcia, Wednesday's starter.
Burnett exited after allowing four runs (three earned), eight hits and six walks, throwing 110 pitches in 51/3 innings. "I look at it as I kept my team in it as best I could,'' he said.
The Yankees' ability to grind their way back bailed him out.
"It's a big win,'' Martin said. "Especially when you come back late like that. It seemed like they had our number the whole night and we were just able to rally late. Everybody played their part, getting walks, big knocks here and there. So definitely a big team win today.''