NEW YORK (AP) — In the start of a series moved from Florida to Citi Field because of Hurricane Irma, Todd Frazier capitalized on Trevor Plouffe’s two-out error with a three-run homer in a five-run fourth inning that led the New York Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 on Monday night.
Jacoby Ellsbury broke Pete Rose’s major league record by reaching base on catcher’s interference for the 30th time, and David Robertson (8-2) pitched a career-high 2 2/3 innings in relief of CC Sabathia, removed with two on and one out in the fifth.
Opening a stretch that has 17 of their final 20 games in New York, the Yankees closed within three games of Boston in the AL East and opened a four-game lead over Minnesota for the top AL wild card. The Rays dropped four games behind the Twins with 17 remaining and have five other teams to overcome.
Major League Baseball moved the series to Queens because of the availability of hotel rooms in New York. The Rays wore home white uniforms, hit last, used the Mets clubhouse and were introduced to their regular walkup music. They hope to return to Tropicana Field for a three-game series against Boston starting Friday.
Only the lower deck was open, ticket prices were capped at $25 and a pro-Yankees crowd of 15,327 booed the Rays when they ran onto the field for the first pitch.
This was just the fifth big league series moved to a neutral site because of weather and the second in less than a month after Houston played Texas at Tampa Bay because of Hurricane Harvey. The Chicago White Sox hosted Montreal and Florida in 2004 because of Hurricane Ivan, the Los Angeles Angels played Cleveland in Milwaukee in 2007 because of snow and the Chicago Cubs met Houston at Milwaukee in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike.
In April 1998, the Yankees beat the Anaheim Angels 6-3 at Shea Stadium in a game moved after the crash of a 71-year-old steel-and-concrete joint at old Yankee Stadium. While the Mets’ Home Run Apple started to rise when Darryl Strawberry went deep then, there was no such mishap this time.
Ellsbury set an obscure major league record on his 34th birthday, nicking Wilson Ramos’ mitt on a slow curveball from Jake Odorizzi (8-8). Ellsbury set the season mark with 12 last year and has four this season. He reached the record in 5,308 plate appearance, about one-third of Rose’s 15,890.
After starting with 6 1/3 hitless innings against Minnesota last week, Odorizzi did not allow a hit until the fourth, when he threw just 15 of 51 pitches for strikes and was chased with two outs. Just one of the five runs off Odorizzi was earned, and he allowed three hits and three walks while throwing 94 pitches over 3 2/3 innings. Just before Odorizzi left the game, Plouffe walked to the mound and said “my bad.”
Sabathia was helped in the third when Tampa Bay had two on and tried for a double steal, only for Kevin Kiermaier to get tagged out oversliding second. Sabathia allowed six hits.
Ahead 1-0, Odorizzi walked Aaron Judge on four pitches leading off the fourth. Judge took third when Gary Sanchez singled on a full-count offering, and Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly. After Starling Castro struck out, Matt Holliday hit a grounder to third, and Plouffe tried for a backhand grab but let the ball bounce under his glove and into the left-field corner. The slow-footed Sanchez scored from first with the go-ahead run.
Ellsbury reached on the catcher’s interference, and Frazier lined a full-count slider off the front of the second deck in left for a 5-1 lead.
Adeiny Hechavarria, in a 2-for-18 slide, put the Rays ahead with an RBI triple in the second. He also singled and doubled, then flied out to the right-field warning track with two on in the eighth.