ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — DJ LeMahieu hit a tiebreaking two-run single and Gary Sanchez had a long three-run homer in the 10th inning, and the AL East-leading New York Yankees overcome a ninth-inning blown save by closer Aroldis Chapman to beat the second-place Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 25th homer for the Yankees, who are 15-2 since June 15 and have a season-high, 7 ½-game lead over the Rays.
Tampa Bay, which led the division as late as games through June 14, is 2-8 against the Yankees this season.
Gio Urshela started the 10th drawing a walk off Oliver Drake (0-1) and went to second when pinch-hitter Aaron Judge walked on a 10-pitch plate appearance.
After the Yankees loaded the bases on Brett Gardner’s bunt single, LeMahieu greeted Emilio Pagan with a ground single to left through a drawn-in infield.
LeMahieu is 9 for 11 with 20 RBIs with the bases loaded.
Sanchez hit 24th homer off Pagan, a drive into the second deck in the left field.
Travis d’Arnaud had an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th off Luis Cessa, who was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded. David Hale got his second save by getting a grounder from Yandy Diaz.
The Rays rallied from a two-run deficit in ninth to tie it at 3-all against Chapman (2-1), who opened the ninth by walking Nate Lowe on four pitches.
Lowe scored on Joey Wendle’s one-out double. Wendle then came home on a pair of wild pitches by Chapman. Tampa Bay then loaded the bases before Chapman struck out Austin Meadows to end the ninth.
It was Chapman’s third blown save in 26 save opportunities.
Encarnacion made it 3-1 on his solo shot in the seventh off Yonny Chirinos, who allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings.