ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It is the creed of just about any team struggling offensively: "We just need that one big hit."
That hit, an elusive dance partner this season for the Yankees, showed up Sunday in the form of a tying RBI single by Gleyber Torres on an 0-and-2 pitch with one out in the eighth inning.
Then Rougned Odor delivered a big hit of his own, dumping a two-out RBI single to center in the 10th to give the Yankees the lead in a much-needed 8-4 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"It took us a couple games to get that big hit, but we finally did," Aaron Judge said. "Hopefully kind of starts a streak and we get rolling here going into Toronto. It’s always a grind and a battle with [the Rays].’’
The Yankees (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided a sweep at the hands of the hated Rays (4-5).
Three two-out hits in the 10th made up for a frustrating afternoon.
With the bases loaded and none out in the third, Aaron Hicks hit into a 4-6-3 double play, with a run scoring to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. With the bases loaded, one out in the seventh and the Yankees trailing 4-3, DJ LeMahieu grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. With runners on first and third and one out in the ninth, Brett Gardner thought about scoring on a pitch in the dirt and was caught in a rundown.
Judge, per the extra-inning rule put into effect last season, started the 10th on second with Collin McHugh on the mound.
Hicks, who was 0-for-4 to that point, got grazed on his lower right leg by a pitch. Mike Tauchman’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners but, with the infield in, Torres grounded to shortstop Willy Adames, who easily threw Judge out at home for the second out.
More frustration for the Yankees.
Then Odor, 0-for-4 to that point, worked the count full before flaring a cutter into centerfield for a 5-4 lead and a palpable exhale from the Yankees’ dugout.
"I’m the kind of guy, I forget what happened in the past," Odor said of stepping up in a big spot after not succeeding earlier. "I just try, every at-bat, like it’s the first at-bat of the game."
The Yankees piled on as Gary Sanchez laced an RBI single to center to make it 6-4 and Gio Urshela — whose two-run homer highlighted a three-run third and who had four hits and three RBIs — lined an RBI single to right. The ball got past Manuel Margot for an error that brought in an extra run and made it 8-4.
Righty prospect Albert Abreu, brought up earlier in the day from the alternate site, struck out two in a perfect 10th. That followed a dominant bottom of the ninth by Aroldis Chapman, who worked around a two-out double and struck out three batters in the inning on 101, 101 and 100 mph fastballs.
Chad Green, Darren O'Day, Chapman and Abreu combined to strike out nine and allow one hit and no walks in five scoreless innings.
Starter Jordan Montgomery labored through five innings-plus in which he allowed five runs and five hits. Montgomery allowed two-run homers by Mike Zunino and Randy Arozarena, who has gone 15-for-39 with six homers and nine RBIs in 11 games against the Yankees, including the postseason.
Montgomery, who threw only 48 strikes in 82 pitches, twice hit Austin Meadows, who homered Saturday. The first one, which drilled Meadows in the right shoulder, engendered warnings to both benches from plate umpire Marty Foster. There was no retaliation, but it will be something to watch when the clubs play next weekend at the Stadium.
The Yankees had lost 12 of their last 14 regular-season games against the Rays. "You never want to get swept, and you’ve got to be able to turn the page in this game," Aaron Boone said. "You’re going to take your lumps every now and then, even when you’re a really good club. Obviously, a tough couple of first games here. I thought it was a really good job of turning the page and coming out and playing some winning baseball here today."