Yankees pitcher Victor Gonzalez reacts after knocking down a hard comebacker...

Yankees pitcher Victor Gonzalez reacts after knocking down a hard comebacker and tossing it to first base for the final out against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Ed Murray

Luis Gil is a fifth starter by rotation position only.

The righthander’s arsenal, highlighted by a high-90s fastball, darting slider and refined changeup, features the kind of stuff that draws raves, both from the Yankees and other teams’ scouts.

“Him at his best,” Aaron Boone said of Gil on Sunday morning, “can shut down anyone.”

Gil provided more than a few flashes of being that kind of pitcher Sunday afternoon. Allowing few hard-hit balls and featuring far better command than he had in his previous outing, Gil controlled the Rays over 5 2⁄3 innings in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory in front of 40,022 at the Stadium.

“That’s a really good peek at how good he is when he’s filling up the strike zone,” Boone said.

Gil, who walked a career-high seven last Monday in Toronto, allowed one run (unearned), two hits and three walks in a 97-pitch outing in which he struck out a career-high nine.

The one run the Rays managed against Gil came on a balk, one of two called on him in the game. After Gil’s error on a pickoff throw sent Jose Caballero to third with one out in the third inning, he struck out Randy Arozarena, but his balk before a 1-and-2 pitch to Richie Palacios tied the score at 1-1. He wound up fanning Palacios on the next pitch for his third strikeout of the inning.

Gil, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2022, picked up his first win since Aug. 3, 2021, in his big-league debut.

“Throughout that time, you stay positive,” he said through his interpreter of what at times was a taxing rehab process. “You keep your head up, you keep doing all the work and you’re looking for it to pay off. Positive thoughts all around and thank God, here I am today.”

The Yankees (15-7) had nine hits and took two of three from the Rays (12-11), who had five hits. Alex Verdugo had three hits, two RBIs and a run scored.

Juan Soto walked and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s two-out single in the first. The Yankees snapped a 1-1 tie with four runs in the fifth after Aaron Civale retired the first two batters in the inning. He then walked Giancarlo Stanton, Rizzo and Gleyber Torres, and three pitches later, it was 5-1. Verdugo singled home two runs and Jose Trevino and Oswaldo Cabrera added RBI singles.

After Luke Weaver pitched a scoreless 1 1⁄3 innings, Dennis Santana could not hold down the Rays in the eighth. He allowed a hit and a walk with one out, then a two-out, two-run double by Amed Rosario. Curtis Mead’s RBI single made it 5-4, but former Yankee Ben Rortvedt hit a liner right at Soto for the third out.

With Clay Holmes unavailable after appearing in the previous two games, lefthander Victor Gonzalez walked Arozarena with two outs in the ninth but got pinch hitter Harold Ramirez to ground out to end it. Gonzalez stuck his glove behind his back to knock down a hard comebacker, swatting it toward the right side of the infield. He scrambled after it and underhanded to Rizzo while falling to the ground for his second save in two chances.

“As he’s running after it, it’s kind of in slow motion in my mind,” Boone said with a smile of the final play, an odd-looking sequence generally not covered during pitchers’ fielding practice during spring training. “I’m just like, ‘Please stick the landing and let’s get on with it.’ So good job, obviously, of sticking that landing and securing the win.”

Said Gonzalez: “That’s something I usually I never do, I never try to catch a ball like that. But today was a reaction. Immediately I noticed I was able to knock it down and as I’m trying to get the ball and be as quick as possible, out of the corner of my eye, I could see the runner and I knew I had enough time. It was a matter of sticking with it.”

Notes & quotes: Hideki Matsui, who played for the Yankees from 2003-09 and was the MVP of the 2009 World Series, returned to the Stadium on Sunday to help publicize a new exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame: “Yakyu/Baseball: The Transpacific Exchange of the Game between Japan and the United States.” “I just wanted to play with the Yankees,” Matsui said through his interpreter before Sunday’s game. “That’s really all I wanted, to wear the pinstripes and play with the Yankees. Of course, there was a responsibility to play well, not just wear the uniform. For me, it was an honor to have been able to play on the same field as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.” . . . DJ LeMahieu, who started the season on the injured list with a non-displaced fracture on the top of his right foot, is slated to start a rehab assignment Tuesday with Double-A Somerset.

More Yankees headlines


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months