By JAKE SEINER AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Rookie Tyler Austin hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Yankees their season-high fifth straight victory, 5-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Brian McCann hit two homers for the Yankees, who moved a season-high nine games over .500 (74-65).
Austin homered off Erasmo Ramirez (7-11) on a 3-2 pitch for his third homer since being called up Aug. 13. Teammates met him at home plate by dousing him with water in a raucous celebration.
After blowing three leads during the first six innings, New York moved within two games of Baltimore for the second AL wild card and four games of AL East-leading Boston. Resurgent New York plays 20 of its remaining 23 games against division opponents, putting it in position to compete despite selling off key pieces at the Aug. 1 deadline.
Tommy Layne (2-1) entered and struck out pinch-hitter Logan Morrison to end the ninth.
The pesky Rays kept erasing leads, getting two homers each from Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza by the sixth. This was the first game this season in which three players had multiple homers, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
New York had to use five relievers on a night when its bullpen was already short-handed. Manager Joe Girardi said before the game he hoped to avoid using Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren and Luis Severino, so he had to dig deep in the bullpen when CC Sabathia went just four innings, allowing three homers while throwing 87 pitches.
McCann’s first homer led off the second inning and landed in the luxury suites just below the third deck in right field. His second put the Yankees up 4-3 in the fourth, giving him 19 for the season. He ripped a hard single to center in the sixth.
McCann entered on a 3-for-20 slide and had hit just .232 with two homers since Aug. 1 _ one of those homers came Tuesday against Toronto. The left-handed slugger is one shy of his ninth straight 20-homer season and 10th overall.
Kiermaier homered twice in the first three innings, setting a career high with his 11th homer in the third. He’s hit safely in a career-best 12 straight games, the longest streak by a Ray this season.
The Yankees went ahead 2-1 in the first when Alex Cobb’s pickoff attempt to first hit Didi Gregorius as he dived back safely. The ball skidded away from first baseman Brad Miller, allowing Jacoby Ellsbury to score from third.
Souza had his third multihomer game of the season, and second at Yankee Stadium. After hitting a solo homer to right-center in the second, he crushed a ball 430 feet off the glass sports bar beyond center field in the sixth.
Souza had been in a 5-for-40 slump without a home run.
Cobb made his second start since having Tommy John surgery in 2015. He allowed four runs _ three earned _ over six innings. He gave up two homers and threw 89 pitches.
The Rays trailed three times during a 7-6 win over Baltimore on Wednesday.
The paid attendance was 27,631, under 30,000 for just the second time at Yankee Stadium _ the first was 27,532 on Tuesday. That was the first time under 30,000 since 2004.
Rays: SS Matt Duffy will have surgery Friday on his left heel. Dr. Bob Anderson, team orthopedist for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, will perform the operation. … RHP Chase Whitley is expected to return following Tommy John surgery in one of the next three games. Whitley pitched for the Yankees in 2014 and `15 but was placed on waivers and claimed by Tampa Bay last November while recovering from the surgery.
Rays: Rookie LHP Blake Snell (5-7, 3.39) starts vs. New York on Friday night. He struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball in a win against Toronto last time out and has a 2.61 ERA in two starts against New York this season.
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (6-11, 5.10) pitches against Tampa Bay. Pineda is 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA over his past three starts.
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