Go-ahead Gary: Rookie powers Yanks vs. TB

Go-ahead Gary: Rookie powers Yanks vs. TB

ST. PETERSBURG -- Gary Sanchez's increasingly convincing candidacy for the American League Rookie of the Year Award kept the Yankees' postseason dream alive for another day.

Sanchez slugged a three-run homer off Brad Boxberger in the seventh inning, lifting the Yankees to a 5-3 victory over the Rays on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Mark Teixeira also homered and Brett Gardner drove home a run for the Yankees, who snapped a five-game losing streak. The Yankees are now 3 1/2 games back for the second American League Wild Card spot.

"Of course it feels good," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "Winning always feels good, especially after losing five in a row. We come here every day to work hard and to try to win ballgames. Tomorrow is another day. We have to come back and try to win tomorrow."

Sanchez has 17 home runs; no player in history has had more through their first 44 career games. Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves also had 17 through 44 games.

"I know Gary Sanchez is having a tremendous year," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I would feel that they're going to go to [Brian] McCann, who's a very good hitter also. Had Boxberger fallen behind, maybe you think about it a little bit more, but this is a guy who has gotten a lot of big outs for us in the past, and [we] trust him to get outs."

The rookie's blast made a winner of Luis Severino, who recorded four outs in relief after Yankees starter Michael Pineda struck out 11 over 5 1/3 innings. Brad Miller's two-run triple in the third inning accounted for the damage off Pineda, who scattered five hits with a walk.

"I thought his stuff was really good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he used his fastball effectively tonight, and his slider was really good. He threw some good changeups to add a third pitch into the mix."

Drew Smyly accepted a no-decision for Tampa Bay. The left-hander held the Yankees to Teixeira's fourth-inning homer, his 13th, allowing four hits over six innings. Smyly had only thrown 87 pitches before coming out.

"It's not my call," Smyly said. "We got a lot of guys down in the bullpen. Skip wanted to go to them. At that point, it was out of my control."

Bring it on:
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey visited the mound to break down the situation with Boxberger in the seventh, as New York had runners at second and third with two outs in a 2-2 game. Though the situation seemed to call for an intentional walk, Boxberger challenged Sanchez, and the 23-year-old prospect teed off, crushing homer No. 17 over the wall in left-center. According to Statcast™, the ball had an exit velocity of 108 mph and traveled a projected 437 feet.

Statcast: Sanchez's 437-ft homer

"He's had a historic start to his career, so if they walked him, I would have been ready," said Billy Butler, who was waiting on deck. "They're probably going to walk him next time, I would think." More >

You triplin': Miller got his team-leading sixth triple in the third inning. He crushed a ball off the center-field wall, and Mason Williams couldn't grab it. As the ball dribbled away from him, Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria came around to score and give the Rays a 2-0 lead with two outs. Tampa Bay would hold that lead until the seventh inning, and it would be the only RBIs for the Rays on the night.

"We got the big hit from Brad, and that was basically the game going into the seventh," Cash said. "They pieced together some solid at-bats, got three singles to score and tie it back up."

Tex, Smyly and the Duke: Teixeira tied Duke Snider (407) for 54th place on the all-time home run list with his long solo blast off Smyly in the fourth inning. According to Statcast™, the blast came off Teixeira's bat at 107 mph and traveled a projected 418 feet. Teixeira is retiring at the end of the season and will need a strong finish to catch Alfonso Soriano (412) on the all-time list.

Teixeira's solo home run

"I haven't hit a ball right-handed like that in a long time. It felt really good," Teixeira said. "Everything came together. He tried to throw a high fastball by me; he had been successful doing it to all of us during the game, he just left it a little bit too close."

"He said, 'You have an opportunity to face either Sanchez or Butler.' The matchup was better against Butler, but it was up to me. And I wanted Sanchez. It didn't work out today." -- Boxberger, on his discussion with Hickey before allowing the three-run homer to Sanchez

Pineda is the first Yankee ever to record 11 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings or fewer. More >

Pineda's 11 K's in 11 seconds

Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.97 ERA) takes the ball on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET as the Yankees play the second game of a three-game set at Tropicana Field. Tanaka is 6-0 with a 1.86 ERA over his past eight outings, including wins over the Rays on Aug. 13 and Sept. 10. The Yanks are 22-8 when Tanaka starts.

Rays: Alex Cobb (1-0, 3.06 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season. After posting an ERA over 6.00 in his eight rehab starts, Cobb has figured everything out at the Major League level. In his other start against New York this season, he allowed three earned runs in six innings at Yankee Stadium.

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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007.

Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.