^By CHARLES O’BRIEN=
NEW YORK (AP) _ This latest hit by Brett Gardner produced another walkoff win for the New York Yankees _ without any mishaps, either.
Gardner hit an RBI single with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, sending the AL East leaders over the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 for their sixth straight win.
“Makes me feel good,” Gardner said. “It’s an exciting win for us _ a very important game against a tough opponent.”
Gardner won the series opener against the Rays on Thursday night with an 11th-inning home run. That sparked a wild celebration at home plate, and Yankees rookie slugger Aaron Judge was accidentally hit by Gardner’s helmet and lost half of his front left tooth.
A day after Judge went to the dentist for a fix, he steered clear this time, instead pouring Gatorade on Gardner and nimbly avoiding the happy group.
Chase Headley and Gary Sanchez hit long home runs for New York. The contending Rays lost their sixth straight game at Yankee Stadium.
“That team is on fire right now,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Seems like a lot of things are going their way. They’re in such a good spot right now as a club.”
With the game 4-all, Brad Boxberger (2-3) walked Headley to lead off the ninth, and pinch-runner Jacoby Ellsbury promptly stole second.
Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch and Ronald Torreyes tried to put down a sacrifice bunt, but instead reached first to load the bases when infielders Adeiny Hechavarria and Tim Beckham miscommunicated on a ground ball for the second time in the series.
Cash brought in newly acquired left-hander Dan Jennings to face the lefty-hitting Gardner. On an 0-1 pitch, Gardner grounded a ball past the Tampa Bay infield to score the winning run.
“When we needed the huge hit, he got it for us,” New York manager Joe Girardi said.
Aroldis Chapman (4-1) worked around a pair of baserunners in the ninth to earn the victory. The hard-throwing closer threw 11 of his 13 pitches over 100 mph to earn his second win of the series. He’s allowed just two hits and struck out six over his last five innings.
Lucas Duda homered for the second straight game since being traded from the New York Mets to the Rays. He had an early sacrifice, and tied it at 4 with a homer off David Robertson in the eighth.
Peter Bourjos and Steven Souza Jr. also hit home runs for Tampa Bay, which fell for the eighth time in their last 10 games.
Headley snapped a 124 at-bat homerless streak with a pinch-hit, two-run drive that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead. He connected off Segio Romo, making Headley 6 for 12 lifetime against the reliever.
Rays starter Blake Snell allowed three runs over 5 1-3 innings. He is 0-6 this season and hasn’t won in 14 starts since being the Yankees last Sept. 22.
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