Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez homers lead Yankees past pesky Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Maybe the Yankees are on their way.

With a 3-1 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, the Yankees moved to a season-high three-games over .500 (19-16) and finally figured out how to beat their most recent nemesis.

After losing five of the first six meetings to Tampa Bay to start the season — including the previous three — the Yankees got a sterling performance from Jordan Montgomery and just enough offense to win their third consecutive game overall.

Montgomery delivered his best outing since his first start of the season, limiting the Rays to a run on two hits over six innings. The left-hander also matched a career-high with nine strikeouts and walked just one.

And in the first game of a 10-game road trip, the Yankees also got solo homers from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

Judge gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with two outs in the top of the first with a 419-foot shot to center for his eighth homer of the season.

The Yankees threatened with one out in the third with a single from DJ LeMahieu and a walk to Giancarlo Stanton. With Judge at the plate, Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino then missed a pair of pitches from right-hander Luis Patino.

The first passed ball moved LeMahieu to third, with Stanton going to second. The next one scored LeMahieu to make it 2-0, and Stanton advanced to third.

Zunino made up for his miscues with an estimated 472-foot blast off Montgomery to lead off the bottom of the inning to cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1.

It was the only mistake Montgomery made in his 85-pitch outing.

He preserved the lead in the fourth, pitching around a leadoff double by Manuel Margot and a one-out walk to Yandy Diaz. He got some help from Gio Urshela, who made a nice stop on Kevin Padlo’s hard grounder to third to end the inning.

Sanchez added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. On a 1-0 pitch, Sanchez stepped out of the box after he appeared to try to call time. The pitch from Josh Fleming was called a ball. On the next pitch, Sanchez went deep to right for his fourth home run of the season to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

Jonathan Loaisiga took over for Montgomery to start the seventh and tossed two scoreless innings.

The Yankees squandered an opportunity to add to their lead again in the eighth. Stanton led off with a double and moved to third on a single by Judge. With the infield in, Urshela hit a grounder to second and Stanton tried to score but was thrown out by Brandon Lowe.

Aroldis Chapman entered in the ninth. Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle an Austin Meadows chopper to start the inning. The error was erased when Chapman fired a pitch to the backstop and Sanchez grabbed the rebound and fired to second in time to get Meadows.

Chapman walked Diaz before pinch-hitter Kevan Smith came up. Chapman was visited by the training staff during the at-bat, but remained in the game to get Smith and fan Lowe.

There were no fireworks despite two Yankees being hit by pitches and the tense history between the teams. Patino drilled Luke Voit in the hand in the fourth and Josh Fleming plunked Brett Gardner in the seventh.

Last month, warnings were issued to both teams after Montgomery hit Meadows in the right shoulder with a pitch, which followed Justin Wilson hitting Joey Wendle in the helmet with a fastball.

And all of that comes on the heels of Chapman getting suspended for throwing a 100 mph fastball near the head of Mike Brosseau last September.

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