ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brandon Lowe homered and drove in four runs as the American League wild-card-leading Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 7-4 in a contentious matchup on Sunday and kept the road team winless in the series since June.
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Benches and bullpens emptied twice in the eighth inning after one of five hit batters, but no punches were thrown, and the Yankees lost their eighth straight series rubber game.
“Looking at it in a different view, it’s a last-place team,” Lowe said. “We don’t need to worry about it. We need to focus up on what we need to do down the stretch. If they lose a guy, it’s not going to be quite as big of a deal as if we’re losing one of our guys. We’re focused up on kind of a bigger picture.”
Tampa Bay (80-52) rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the sixth when Harold Ramirez flared a bases-loaded, two-out single to right off Ian Hamilton (2-2) that went just over a slow-to-react Gleyber Torres at second, and Lowe followed with a two-run single against Wandy Peralta.
New York (62-68) dropped a season-high six games under .500, and it is in danger of ending its streak of 30 consecutive winning seasons. The last 16 batters made outs for the Yankees, who are 0-8-2 in series since winning two of three games at the Oakland Athletics in late June. New York has been held to four hits or fewer 23 times.
“We haven’t been very good,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Everything has been a challenge.”
Tempers flared after Randy Arozarena was hit on a 3-1 pitch by Albert Abreu, the fourth Tampa Bay player hit. Arozarena also was hit twice by the Yankees on May 5, once by Abreu after hitting a long home run.
“I think it was on purpose,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “If you look back at [the] previous series, he’s hit me before. I’ve been hit in previous series before that. They hurt Yandy [Diaz] the other day, they hit [Isaac] Paredes in the head, so I think it probably was an issue for them.”
Several players had to be restrained, including Diaz. Arozarena stole second then third, resuming yelling at Abreu, and players ran onto the field for a second time.
Abreu, speaking through an interpreter, said he was not throwing at Arozarena. Diaz was hit on the left forearm in Friday’s game and missed the past two contests.
Osleivis Basabe was hit by Carlos Rodon and Paredes and Jonathan Aranda by Hamilton on Sunday, while New York’s Oswald Peraza was plunked by Zack Littell. Twelve Rays batters were hit by the Yankees this season, and two Yanks were hit by the Rays.
“You understand their anger?” Hamilton said. “I understand it. But at the same time, if they want to come over here, they can come over here, I guess. Wish we had another game against them.”
In the last meeting of the AL East rivals until next April 19, Rays fans among the announced crowd of 22,624 erupted when Lowe doubled for a 7-3 lead and Arozarena jogged home.
Higashioka and LeMahieu had solo drives over a four-pitch sequence against Littell (3-4) in the third, and Volpe connected on a fourth-inning two-run shot that put the Yankees up 4-2.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in first. Arozarena singled, stole second, advanced on Higashioka’s throwing error into center and came home when Harrison Bader‘s throw to third skipped past LeMahieu for another error. Lowe homered on the next pitch, the 10th allowed by Rodon in 37⅔ innings — two shy of his total in 178 innings for the San Francisco Giants last year.
Rodon, making just his eighth start in an injury-marred season after signing a $162 million, six-year contract in December, retired 11 in a row at one point before departing in the fifth with two on and two outs. He was replaced by Hamilton, who hit Isaac Paredes on the side of the helmet before striking out pinch hitter Josh Lowe.
Paredes stayed in the game.
Littell allowed four runs and four hits in six innings. Jason Adam worked the ninth for his 12th save in 18 chances.