By BEN WALKER AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Jacoby Ellsbury stole home, a daring dash that seemed to startle most everyone at Yankee Stadium and helped New York rush past the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 Friday night.
Ellsbury became the first Yankees player to pull off a straight steal of home since Derek Jeter since 2001. And Ellsbury’s timing in the fifth inning was really surprising: He took off with two outs on a full-count pitch to Brett Gardner, who let it go high for ball four.
Ellsbury added a two-run double in eighth. Brian McCann hit an early two-run homer, then sliced a tiebreaking single in the sixth as the Yankees ended a three-game losing skid.
Ivan Nova (1-0) won in relief of CC Sabathia. Dellin Betances struck all three batters in the eighth and Andrew Miller closed for his fourth save as a light sprinkle fell.
Logan Forsythe doubled twice, drove in two runs and scored for the Rays.
New York had managed only 18 runs in its past eight games and was desperately trying to find ways to score. Ellsbury provided it in most unusual fashion.
The Yankees trailed 3-2 in the fifth when Ellsbury singled with two outs and Didi Gregorius followed with a single off Matt Moore (1-1). A balk moved the runners to second and third while Gardner was batting.
With the infield playing back and the count full, the speedy Ellsbury started wandering down the line. When the left-handed Moore went into a full windup, Ellsbury broke for the plate.
Gardner stood in the left-handed batter’s box as Ellsbury hurtled toward him. Had Gardner swung, who knows what might’ve happened _ a foul ball could have nailed the defenseless Ellsbury from extremely close range, or a big backswing could’ve hit him.
Instead, Gardner took the pitch as Ellsbury made a headfirst dive, his right hand barely reaching the plate under catcher Curt Casali’s tag. The crowd cheered even louder when a replay was shown after the inning ended.
The Yankees had seen this before from Ellsbury _ in 2009 with Boston, he pulled off a straight steal of home against Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.
Chris Young was the previous Yankees player to swipe home, as part of a double steal in 2014.
Rays: OF Kevin Kiermaier didn’t start and manager Kevin Cash said “we got to be smart” and rest him once in a while. The day off came on Kiermaier’s 26th birthday. “Happy birthday, K.K.,” Cash said.
Yankees: Hicks exited soon after diving for Brandon Guyer’s bloop single. He has a sore left shoulder. No tests were scheduled. … Righty reliever Branden Pinder was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained elbow. The move was retroactive to Thursday. RHP Nick Goody was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Rays: Top pitching prospect Blake Snell is being called up from Triple-A Durham to make his big league debut. The 23-year-old lefty was a combined 15-4 with a 1.41 ERA at three levels of the minors last season.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.06) makes his fourth start and will pitch on five days’ rest. He’s 2-0 in three career starts vs. the Rays.
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