ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays found out the hard way that Gary Sanchez is no ordinary rookie.
Sanchez hit his 17th homer in 42 games this season, a three-run shot off Brad Boxberger in a four-run seventh inning that sent the New York Yankees past the Rays 5-3 on Tuesday night.
“He did a good job on a first-pitch slider from me,” Boxberger said. “It’s probably not on the scouting report too much, so to be able to do what he did is pretty impressive.”
Sanchez gave the banged-up Yankees a 5-2 lead with his drive to left-center. It was the young catcher’s sixth home run in 11 games following a 10-game drought.
The decisive hit came after Tampa Bay opted not to walk Sanchez with first base open and two outs.
“Had Boxy fallen behind, maybe you’d think about it, but this is a guy who’s gotten a lot of big outs for us in the past and trust him to get outs,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Boxberger (4-3) has struggled recently, losing in three of his last four appearances. He has allowed 10 earned runs over 8 2/3 innings in his last 10 games.
Sanchez tied Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves for the most homers by a big league player through 44 career games, according to Baseball-Reference data available through 1913.
Drew Smyly allowed one run over six innings for the Rays. The left-hander has not lost in 11 consecutive starts, including six no-decisions.
“I was being efficient,” Smyly said. “I felt I had control of the game for the most part.”
Brad Miller put the Rays up 2-0 with a two-run triple in the third.
Mark Teixeira hit a solo shot in the fourth for New York, which was swept in a four-game series at Boston last weekend and had lost seven of eight overall.
It was Teixeira’s 407th homer, which tied Duke Snider for 54th place on baseball’s career list. The switch-hitting first baseman has hit 204 for the Yankees, moving him past Roger Maris and into a tie with Robinson Cano for 14th in franchise history.
Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (bruised right knee), third baseman Chase Headley (back spasms) and second baseman Starlin Castro (strained right hamstring) were all out of the lineup for the second straight game.
Luis Severino (3-8) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. Dellin Betances got three outs for his 12th save, and the Yankees snapped a five-game skid.
New York starter Michael Pineda gave up two runs and struck out 11 in 5 1/3 innings.
Yankees: Ellsbury didn’t rule out starting Wednesday. … Headley could be back late this week.
Rays: OF Steven Souza Jr. (left hip) and 1B Logan Morrison (left wrist) will have surgery Wednesday. … Utility man Nick Franklin (left hamstring) might not play again this season.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-4), who is 6-0 in his last eight starts, takes the ball Wednesday night. He is 5-0 in seven career starts against the Rays.
Rays: RHP Alex Cobb (1-0) makes his fourth start since returning from Tommy John surgery.