By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jordan Montgomery showed power and poise in his major league debut after allowing Rickie Weeks’ two-run homer in the first inning, and the New York Yankees rallied past the sloppy Tampa Bay 8-4 Wednesday to get back to .500.
New York’s Brett Gardner and Weeks both left the game after a collision at first base in the sixth inning. Running hard on a comebacker, Gardner slammed into Weeks, who had not played first in the major leagues before this season and stayed in the baseline as he reached for reliever Xavier Cedeno’s poor throw. Both fell to the field as Chase Headley came home with the go-ahead run.
Gardner was diagnosed with a bruised jaw and a strained beck, and Weeks with neck and right shoulder soreness.
New York rebounded from a 3-0, fifth-inning deficit and won its third straight after a 1-4 start. Aaron Judge homered for the third straight game, a long drive to center, and had three RBIs. Errors by shortstop Tim Beckham and Cedeno led to four unearned runs.
A 24-year-old left-hander, Montgomery earned the fifth-starter’s job over a group that included Luis Cessa, Chad Green and Bryan Mitchell. Montgomery opened with strikeouts of Steven Souza Jr. and Kevin Kiermaier, then walked Evan Longoria and allowed Weeks’ long home run to left.
Keeping Tampa Bay off balance with four pitches before tiring, Montgomery allowed three runs _ two earned _ and five hits in 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and two walks. With his parents on hand after driving up from South Carolina, Montgomery threw 61 of 89 pitches for strikes _ including 17 missed swings.
In an attempt to create comfort, the Yankees gave 26-year-old catcher Kyle Higashioka his first big league start after 10 minor league seasons _ he caught Montgomery 13 times in the minors last year.
Bryan Mitchell (1-0) relieved with a runner on second, and second baseman Starlin Castro allowed Weeks’ hard grounder up the middle to bounce off his glove for an error that made it 3-0. Mitchell got four outs for the win, and Aroldis Chapman retired two batters for the first save of his second Yankees’ stint.
Blake Snell allowed a pair of unearned runs and two hits in 4 2/3 innings. He handled the Yankees smoothly until the fifth, when he walked Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded and Jumbo Diaz (0-1) threw a run-scoring wild pitch.
After Judge’s single against Diaz tied the score 3-3 in the sixth, the Yankees had runners at the corners and one out when Gardner batted for Pete Kozma and hit a comebacker. Diaz field the ball and turned toward second, hoping to start an inning-ending double play but forgetting the infield was in and there was no one covering the base. He bounced a hurried throw to first, and Gardner ran into Weeks. Gardner crawled to touch first before rolling onto his back, and both left the game.
Jacoby Ellsbury followed with an RBI single, and Hicks added a run-scoring grounder off Erasmo Ramirez for a 6-3 lead. Judge homered in the eighth.
Ellsbury stole his first base of the season. Gardner has five after swiping second and third in the home opener. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is emphasizing an aggressive running game.
“I said your job is to score 100 runs,” Girardi remembered telling Gardner. “And I don’t care how you get to the next base, but your job is to score 100 runs.”
To clear a 40-man roster spot for Montgomery, the Yankees designated RHP Johnny Barbato for assignment.
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird missed his fourth straight game. After being sidelined by a sore right ankle and a stomach ailment, he was benched against a left-handed starter.
RHP Luis Severino (0-0) is slated to start Thursday’s series finale for the Yankees and RHP Matt Andriese (0-0) for the Rays. Severino will have had five days’ rest after allowing four runs over five innings at Baltimore in his season debut. Andriese gave up five runs _ four earned _ in four innings last Friday against Toronto.
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