Joe Girardi didn’t want to make too much of the break his team had been given, a break born of circumstances that all involved would have preferred had not occurred.
“I think people are probably going to assume that,” Girardi said of the Yankees-Rays series being moved from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Citi Field because of Hurricane Irma and the inherent advantage of his club essentially playing at home. “But it really comes down to who plays the best, no matter where you’re at.”
And that team of late, whether home or away, has been the Yankees. That continued Monday night in an easy 5-1 victory over the Rays in front of 15,327 at the Mets’ ballpark.
The Yankees (78-65), wearing road grays but cheered on by roughly 100 percent of those filling Citi’s lower bowl, have won seven of nine and climbed within three games of the idle Red Sox in the AL East.
“It’s contagious,” said Todd Frazier, whose three-run homer in a five-run fourth inning gave the Yankees a 5-1 lead and all but ended the game. “That old saying that hitting’s contagious, winning’s contagious. Just seems like when you come to the ballpark right now, something good’s going to happen. Could be any guy, and it has been. We’re clicking right now at the right time.”
Frazier, for the most part, was the one getting done offensively on a night the Yankees had just four hits.
With a full bullpen at his disposal — only Chad Green was unavailable, having thrown 2 1⁄3 innings Sunday in Arlington — Girardi took no chances with CC Sabathia, who received a lubrication shot in his right knee Wednesday as part of regular maintenance.
The lefthander said he wasn’t terribly sharp but had allowed only one run entering the fifth. However, when the Rays (71-74) put two on with one out, Girardi called on David Robertson, a development Sabathia looked none too pleased about.
He said afterward, however, that he understood because of who was coming up next: longtime Yankees-killer and Sabathia nemesis Evan Longoria, who is 32-for-76 (.421) with eight homers against the lefty.
“It’s Longoria, he’s hitting probably .900 off of me,” said Sabathia, who struck out six and allowed six hits and two walks in 4 1⁄3 innings. “I understand it.”
Robertson ended the threat, striking out Longoria and former Met Lucas Duda.
Robertson has 132 career saves, but from the time the Yankees brought him back from the White Sox at the trade deadline, he said he would pitch whenever and wherever. He struck out four and allowed one hit in a career-high 2 2⁄3 innings.
“I knew when I was traded, I was going to be a piece that could be used at any point. I have no problem with that,” Robertson said. “I told Joe the day I got in here that I’d pitch whenever we needed outs. It doesn’t matter to me. As long as we win ballgames and make the playoffs, I’m happy. If I have to throw in the fourth inning, I don’t care, as long as we get wins.”
Dellin Betances allowed a hit and a walk in the eighth but no runs. Aroldis Chapman was dominant again in the ninth, pitching a perfect inning.
The Rays went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
Preceding Frazier’s three-run homer was a key error on third baseman Trevor Plouffe and the 30th time Jacoby Ellsbury reached base on catcher’s interference, which broke Pete Rose’s record.
“Good inning,” Frazier said. “For everybody.”
And another good night for the Yankees.