NEW YORK — This time Wilson Ramos didn’t get robbed of a home run, but he possibly snatched away any chances of the New York Yankees winning the American League East.
Two nights after getting robbed of a grand slam by Aaron Hicks, Ramos hit the go-ahead two-run home run in a seven-run top of the fifth inning for the Tampa Bay Rays, who pushed the Yankees to the verge of elimination in the AL East with a 9-6 victory on Thursday.
Ramos hit his 11th homer during Tampa Bay’s seven-run inning but the ball went to straightaway center field and not in front of the 385-foot sign in right-center field like Tuesday when Hicks leaped over the fence and forced the catcher to settle for a sacrifice fly and not a grand slam.
This time, Ramos hit it higher and further but still had to sweat out a few seconds of nervousness watching Jacoby Ellsbury make a slight climb on the fence to attempt a catch. Ellsbury didn’t come close to getting it and the ball landed on the netting protecting Monument Park, allowing Ramos to relax while circling the bases.
“As soon as I hit that ball, I said is that going because I hit that ball well but as soon I saw him run back to the wall, I said oh my god,” Ramos said. “But finally, I get that one and I’m happy for that homer because that was the winning run.”
Ramos’ eighth homer in his last 31 games gave the Rays a 4-3 lead after they scored their first two runs of the inning on a wild pitch by Sonny Gray (10-12) and catcher Gary Sanchez’s major league-leading 16th passed ball.
“I wasn’t thinking too much about it,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “I knew Wilson made sure that he wasn’t going to hit a close one.”
Ramos’ homer chased Gray and Jonathan Holder allowed Cesar Puello’s bases-loaded single and Peter Bourjos’ two-run triple. Those hits along with solo homers by Corey Dickerson in the first and pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe in the sixth kept the Yankees (89-70) three games behind and reduced Boston’s magic number for clinching to one.
“It’s frustrating because had a chance to pick up a game on them ... to put more pressure on them,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “It just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
Before allowing their most runs in an inning and losing for the second time in 12 home games, the Yankees opened the game with two homers when Brett Gardner hit his 21st and Aaron Judge slugged his league-leading 51st. It was the first time in over five years New York began a game with two homers.
“We did a good job of laying off some tough pitches below the zone,” Cash said. “Sonny Gray’s so tough, he’s got so much late action on balls that look like they’re at the bottom of the zone strikes and they dive out and sometimes they get to the dirt. The at-bats were really good. We got big hits from a lot of people.”
After a run-scoring single by Todd Frazier, Greg Bird homered off Chin-Wei Hu (1-1). Hu was credited with his first major league win when Ramos highlighted Tampa Bay’s second seven-running inning of the season.
Gray (10-12) allowed six runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He also has a 4.58 ERA in his last six starts and issued five walks for the second time in his career.
“I was kind of all over the place tonight,” Gray said.
Starlin Castro hit an RBI infield single in the fifth and Hicks homered as pinch hitter in the ninth. The game ended when right fielder Mallex Smith fell down catching Judge’s fly out, moments before the Red Sox finished their 12-2 loss.
NOTES: Asked about the fictional press conference in the dugout following a home run by 2B Starlin Castro Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi said: “Pretty clever. I think being creative is always fun for the players.” ... New York RHP Adam Warren (lower back spasm) is expected to be activated for Friday’s game against Toronto. ... Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria went 0-for-5 and is hitless in 19 at-bats. ... Rays C Wilson Ramos had to change masks before the bottom of the first inning because his original one broke.