In the Yankees’ second-half surge, it’s been mostly the rookies who have provided an offensive jolt. That again was the case Friday night, but an old warhorse who plans to retire after the season also was heard from. Loudly.
The Yankees got a long solo homer to centerfield from Gary Sanchez, but the big blow in their 7-5 victory over the Rays at the Stadium — which pulled them within one game of the Orioles and Tigers for the second American League wild card — was a grand slam by Mark Teixeira that produced a 7-2 lead in the fourth inning.
They brought a 7-4 lead into the ninth before rain held up the game for the third time, and they then survived a rally by the Rays to earn their sixth straight win.
The Yankees (75-65) moved within two games of the Blue Jays for the first wild card and remained four games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.
In the ninth, Dellin Betances allowed consecutive one-out singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria, and with a 2-and-2 count on Brad Miller, crew chief Mike Everitt again called for the tarp.
After the 51-minute delay, the game resumed at 12:08 a.m. and Betances struck out Miller swinging with his first pitch. Logan Morrison lined an RBI single to right to make it 7-5, but Betances struck out Steven Souza Jr. on three pitches for his 10th save.
“I made sure I stayed as loose as I could,” said Betances, who rode an exercise bike and stretched during the delay. “It’s obviously frustrating, but I’m glad I was able to finish it.”
Joe Girardi typically won’t send out a pitcher if a delay lasts more than 40 minutes but, as he said in response to a different question after the game: “We’re doing whatever it takes.”
The game was held up for 21 minutes in the fourth and 22 minutes in the sixth. Teixeira’s shot came minutes after the first delay.
With Rob Refsnyder on base, Sanchez singled off Kevin Jepsen and Starlin Castro walked. Teixeira, 36, who brought a .198/.283/.332 slash line into the game, then slammed a fastball off the top of the wall in right-center for his 12th homer, making it 7-2. The crowd requested a curtain call, and he obliged. “I don’t know how many more grand slams I have left in me,” he said. “So it was emotional.”
Teixeira once was one of the more durable players in the game — averaging 153 games a season from 2003-11 — before his body started betraying him. Now, more or less, rookie Tyler Austin is the everyday first baseman and Girardi checks in daily with Teixeira, who he still believes “can help us,” which certainly was the case Friday night.
“I have to watch his knee, I have to watch his neck,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of things that go into it.”
Girardi usually gives Teixeira a heads up the night before he’s going to play, and Teixeira goes through 1½ to two hours of pregame treatment “just to make sure I’m feeling good,” he said.
He said his bat, which has felt “slow” much of the season, felt “quick” Friday night, leading to the intent to do maximum damage against Jepsen.
“I was trying to hit a home run there,” he said. “I knew if I got a pitch out over the plate, I could put a good swing on it because I was feeling pretty good tonight . . . I knew if he threw me a strike out over the plate, I could have that type of swing.”