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Jordan Montgomery effective as Yanks bounce back and top Rays

Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery pitches to a Rays

Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery pitches to a Rays batter during the first inning on Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Credit: AP/Steve Nesius

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Yankees got "up off the mat" Tuesday night, as Aaron Boone predicted they would.

It is far too soon to make any declarations on how long they’ll stay up.

Putting, for one night anyway, the lost weekend in Boston behind them, the Yankees got five scoreless innings from Jordan Montgomery and key hits from DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela in a 4-3 victory over the Rays Tuesday night in front of 12,678 at Tropicana Field.

"We," Boone said afterward, "really needed it."

The Yankees (52-47), who lost three of four in Boston, including Sunday’s stunning 5-4 loss ,when the Red Sox scored all of their runs in the eighth inning, improved to 2-3 on this three-city, 10-game trip.

"It was an awesome win for the team," said Ryan LaMarre, whose eighth-inning homer made it 4-2.

It was not easy because, well, it’s the 2021 Yankees.

Chad Green’s recent struggles continued as he relieved Montgomery after five innings and, handed a 3-0 lead, allowed a two-run homer to Brandon Lowe, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 3-2.

Jonathan Loaisiga, who helped torch Sunday’s proceedings when he faced four batters and allowed four straight hits, blew through the top of the Rays order, striking out two in a perfect 16-pitch inning.

After LaMarre’s blast in the top of the eighth, Zack Britton walked Yandy Diaz to start the bottom half and threw a wild pitch. Randy Arozarena’s one-out, RBI double made it 4-3 and Lowe’s infield single put runners at the corners. Britton, however, got Mike Zunino to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"Couldn’t have come at a better time," LeMahieu said.

Aroldis Chapman, put last week back into the closer’s role he lost in the week before the All-Star break, walked Wander Franco with two outs in the ninth and fell behind the dangerous Nelson Cruz 3-and-0 before striking out the DH on a full-count slider for his 19th save in 23 chances. Centerfielder Greg Allen made a diving catch on Manuel Margot’s sinking liner for the second out.

"Felt good about the way Chappy was throwing the ball," Boone said. "Ultimately, he made pitches when he had to."

Montgomery, who came in 3-5 with a 3.96 ERA, allowed five hits and three walks with five strikeouts in picking up his first win since June 2…against Tampa.

"I just know I have a job to do," Montgomery said of blocking out the noise surrounding the team. "Every five days I expect to win."

Neither team distinguished itself in the early going when it came to hitting with runners in scoring position. Through four innings the Yankees were 1-for-7 with RISP with five stranded and the Rays (60-41) were 1-for-6 with five stranded.

The Yankees, who hit into three double plays to increase their MLB-leading total to 97, at last broke through in the fifth against Rays lefty starter Shane McClanahan. Allen led off with a double into the corner in left and LeMahieu followed with an RBI single to right that made it 1-0. That would be all as Aaron Judge, activated earlier in the day from the COVID-19 IL, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play and, after Gary Sanchez walked, Giancarlo Stanton struck out.

Montgomery, who entering the night had allowed three earned runs or fewer in 15 of his 19 starts this season, provided a shutdown inning, walking Wander Franco with two outs but striking out Cruz.

The Yankees added on in the sixth when Gleyber Torres and Rougned Odor opened with singles against McClanahan and Urshela drove them in with a two-run double that made it 3-0.

"It hasn't been pretty, it's been up and down without question, but they haven’t lost confidence, they haven’t lost faith," Boone said. "They've gotten themselves off the mat. They do a really good job of turning the page every day, and that's what we'll continue to do."

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