Austin's walk-off blast lifts Yankees over Rays

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[September 09, 2016]  NEW YORK -- Homering in his first career at-bat was meaningful enough for Tyler Austin.

Nearly a month later, he was getting mobbed at the plate for hitting an even more significant home run.

Austin homered with two outs of the bottom ninth inning, lifting the New York Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

"That might top the first game up here," Austin said. "That was a huge team win for us and a special moment."

Austin, who began this season with Double-A Trenton, ended New York's biggest win to date when he drove a full count fastball from Erasmo Ramirez a few rows into the right-center field seats. He raised his right arm and pumped his fist while rounding first base and flipped his helmet in the air when he neared home plate.

"Honestly I probably wouldn't believe you," Austin said of his timely blast. "In spring training and the way last year went for me. I started off in Double-A this year, didn't give up, kept battling and here we are."

Once he reached the plate, Austin was met by his teammates and later was showered in Gatorade by shortstop Didi Gregorius and left fielder Brett Gardner.

Austin's third career home run gave the Yankees (74-65) a fifth straight win, improved them to 11-4 in their last 15 contests and moved them within two games of idle Baltimore for the second wild card spot and within four of idle Boston for the AL East lead. New York is getting close with two wild wins in Kansas City last week and Tuesday's thrilling victory over Toronto, which was decided on Gardner's catch in the ninth.

"We've been in some crazy games," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think about the games in Kansas City, the one against Toronto and they just keep fighting back."

Austin became the first Yankee rookie to get a walk-off home run since Melky Cabrera on July 18, 2006 in the 11th inning against Seattle's Julio Mateo.

"It's amazing what these kids have been able to do for us," Girardi said.

Austin's blast gave the Yankees their fifth walk-off win and occurred on a night when Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and closer Dellin Betances were unavailable.

The Yankees used four relievers after CC Sabathia allowed three solo home runs among seven hits in four-plus innings. New York rookie Jonathan Holder nearly allowed a run on a balk but the Yankees got the call overturned in the fifth.

Tommy Layne (2-1) struck out pinch hitter Logan Morrison with the go-ahead run on first and would started the ninth had the game continued.

Brian McCann homered twice off Alex Cobb in consecutive at-bats for his 14th multi-home run game. He nearly had a third home run in the ninth off Enny Romero but flied out to the warning track in deep right field.

Gregorius added an RBI single for the Yankees, whose other run came on errant throw by Cobb on a pickoff play at first base.

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Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin (26) is doused by Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) after hitting a walk off home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kiermaier recorded his first career multi-home run game for Tampa Bay, which has dropped four of its last five. Steven Souza Jr. also hit two home runs, including a 461-foot drive to center field in the sixth off Holder that kept the game tied until Austin delivered.

"It felt really good," Souza said of his second home run.

Cobb allowed three earned runs and nine hits in six innings in his second start back from Tommy John surgery. Coincidentally it was his second straight outing at Yankee Stadium that ended with the Yankees getting a 5-4 victory on a ninth-inning home run.

"Today as a whole was a lot more beneficial to my growing and getting to the point where I need to," Cobb said.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead when Kiermaier drove a 2-1 pitch into the second deck in right field with one out in the first. The Yankees scored twice in the first on an RBI single by Gregorius and a throwing error by Cobb on a pickoff play at first.

The teams traded leadoff home runs in the second.

The Rays tied it when Souza opened the second by driving a 2-0 pitch into the New York bullpen beyond the right center field fence. McCann gave New York a 3-2 lead when he drove a 1-0 fastball into the second deck in right.

Kiermaier began the third by lifting a 1-2 pitch into the right field seats for a 3-3 tie. The game stayed tied until McCann lifted a 1-2 fastball into a similar location as Kiermaier's second home run with one out in the fourth.

NOTES: Chad Mottola became the seventh hitting coach in Tampa Bay history and said he is familiar with OF Mikie Mahtook and 3B Richie Shaffer from their time together with Triple-A Durham. Mottola also said he knows IF Brad Miller and UTL Nick Franklin since all three are from Orlando, Fla. ... The Rays signed SS Alexi Ramirez and added him to their active roster. Ramirez was released by the San Diego Padres on Sunday. ... Asked about Tim Tebow signing with the New York Mets, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said: "I'd be shocked if he's not rusty, but the Mets thought enough of him to sign him, so I'm curious. I'm going to watch and pay attention to see how he does. I think it's a good story."

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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