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Yankees rally to top Rays, but lose Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees

Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees is helped off the field after a collision at first base during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Yankees evened their early-season record Wednesday afternoon with an 8-4 victory over the Rays, but they lost leftfielder Brett Gardner.

It wasn’t clear how long he is expected out, but the Yankees did announce late in the game that Gardner had suffered a “bruised jaw and strained neck” after an ugly sixth-inning collision with Tampa Bay first baseman Rickie Weeks Jr., who was also forced out of the game.

General manager Brian Cashman said Gardner passed all concussion tests but the outfielder, who was not available to talk after the game, won’t play Thursday and is considered day-to-day.

“I hope not but we all saw it,” Cashman said of a possible DL stint. “Two Mack trucks collided. He’s going to be sore, even more so tomorrow than he is now. He’s really tough. Having the awareness to get up and still try to get back to the bag is pretty impressive stuff. But he got banged up pretty good.”

If the DL is necessary, another of the club’s prospects might get a shot — perhaps Dustin Fowler, Clint Frazier or even Tyler Wade — but the call very well could go to Mason Williams, who is finally healthy, has some big-league time and is on the 40-man roster.

“Hopefully symptoms don’t develop over time and it’s just soreness,” Cashman said. “But if things change, we’ll have to adapt to that change as well.”

The Yankees (4-4) received a mostly encouraging start from rookie lefthander Jordan Montgomery, who lasted 4 2⁄3 innings in his debut and allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits. The 24-year-old struck out seven and walked two.

“I thought he did a really good job of pitching out of jams,” Joe Girardi said of Montgomery, whom he later said would be getting another start. “Very pleased with what he did.”

Offensively, Aaron Judge continues to impress, contributing two hits, including his third homer in as many days, and three RBIs, giving him more of those (seven) than strikeouts (six). He’s slashing .308/.379/.692 in eight games.

“About the same,” Judge said of his confidence level this year compared to last when he struggled after his August call-up. “Baseball, man, it will humble you fast. You never want to be too high, you never want to be too low with your confidence.”

The final score didn’t suggest it, but the Yankees actually trailed 3-2 entering the sixth, which turned out to be a four-run inning (two of the runs were unearned as the Rays neither pitched nor fielded well).

Weeks saw Starlin Castro’s liner to start the inning bounce off his glove — the play was scored a hit — and Chase Headley followed with his second hit of the day. The third baseman is now 11-for-28 to start the season.

Judge swung at the first pitch he saw, a 98-mph fastball, and lined it to center to tie it at 3 (the rightfielder hit a monster two-run shot off the batter’s eye in center in the seventh to make it 8-3).

Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka, getting his first big-league start, laid down a bunt to put runners at the corners with one out and Rays manager Kevin Cash brought on lefty Xavier Cedeno to face Gardner, pinch hitting for Pete Kozma.

Gardner sent a bouncer back to Cedeno, who froze the runner at third, then lobbed a throw to first. The poor throw took Weeks into the base path and as it arrived, it appeared the top of Weeks’ head connected under the chin of Gardner, who was running full speed.

Both players crashed to the ground and were quickly tended to. The pair walked off under their own power but were clearly shaken. An inning later it was announced Weeks left the game with neck and right shoulder soreness.

“Talking to him, he seems pretty good, considering,” Headley said of Gardner, whom he spoke to after the game. “He’s got a little egg underneath his chin but it seems like he’s all there. We’re hoping for the best.”


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