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Grisham drives in 2 runs, New York bullpen shines to help struggling Yankees beat Rays 2-1

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Trent Grisham drove in two runs and made a nice running catch in center field to help the struggling New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 on Wednesday night for only their seventh victory in 24 games.

Relievers Tim Hill (3-0) and Luke Weaver each worked out of jams to protect a one-run lead, and All-Star closer Clay Holmes came on to bail out the Yankees from yet another tight spot in the eighth inning as the Rays finished 0 for 10 with runners in scoring positions and stranded 12 men on base.

Holmes got his 20th save and first since June 9 after blowing a pair of previous chances. Yankees pitchers had allowed home runs in their seven previous games and 18 of 19.

“That was the ultimate bend but don’t break, playing the nickel defense. Just a great job,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “A lot of big moments in that game, especially with what we’re going through and guys just coming through over and over again.”

Grisham ran down Yandy Díaz’s potentially troublesome drive toward the gap in right-center for the final out in the eighth.

New York rolled to a major league-best 50-22 record through June 14, but has gone 6-16 since then to fall out of first place in the AL East. Despite the rough stretch, the Yankees enter the series finale Thursday at Tropicana Field just two games behind first-place Baltimore.

The division rivals begin a three-game series in Baltimore on Friday.

“The work ethic from every guy, the confidence hasn’t changed one bit,” Yankees starting pitcher Marcus Stroman said. “We’re going to go on skids, but definitely glad to get the win. Full-team team effort tonight. Bullpen was incredible. Grish was obviously big on defense and offense.”

In an effort to jumpstart the team’s sputtering offense, Boone dropped hot-hitting Ben Rice into the clean-up spot after the rookie homered four times over his previous three games as the leadoff batter.

It was Grisham, though, who got the Yankees off to solid start against Zach Eflin (5-6) with a RBI double in the second and a fourth-inning sacrifice fly that made it 2-0. Rice, meanwhile, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

Stroman allowed one run and seven hits over 4 1/3 innings — the second time in his past three outings the right-hander failed get through the fifth inning.

Díaz grounded into a force play to drive in Tampa Bay’s only run, and Hill helped New York avoid further damage in the fifth when he replaced Stroman with the bases loaded and fanned Josh Lowe and got Randy Arozarena to fly out.

Weaver’s bailed out the Yankees out in the sixth, taking over for Hill with two runners on before getting Taylor Walls to ground into an inning-ending double play on the right-hander’s first pitch.

Juan Soto stole second base in the eighth inning, ending the Yankees’ streak of 21 games without a stolen base, their longest since a stretch from the 1961 to 1962 seasons.

Eflin worked a season-high seven innings for the Rays, yielding two runs and four hits while walking one and striking out six.

New York pitchers held the Rays to one run despite allowing 10 singles, five walks and hitting a batter.

“We did a lot of good things, had some good at-bats to get guys on base, but just couldn’t find a way to get that big hit to get us back in the ball game,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Díaz, the defending AL batting champion, thought his drive off Holmes in the ninth was a sure double that would definitely tie the game and possibly give the Tampa Bay the lead.

“I think that would have scored two runs. We would’ve been up 3-2,” Diaz said through a translator. “And with the relievers we had coming in, I think they would have taken care of that.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees 3B DJ LeMahieu was hit in the left pinkie finger by a pitch in the second inning but remained in the game. The Yankees had another anxious moment in the seventh when LeMahieu fouled off a pitch from Eflin and the ball bounced up from the dirt and struck the New York infielder in the face.

UP NEXT

Yankees LHP Nestor Cortes (4-7, 3.40 ERA) was set to start Thursday night in the series finale against Shane Baz (0-1, 4.50).

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

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