Bronx, NY (Sports Network) - Nick Swisher hit the game-tying home run in the eighth inning and singled in the winning run in the ninth, lifting the New York Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on an emotional night at Yankee Stadium.
Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada added back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning for the Yankees, who honored late team owner George Steinbrenner and former public address announcer Bob Sheppard before and throughout the game.
Steinbrenner passed away Tuesday of a heart attack at the age of 80, while Sheppard died Sunday at age 99.
The Yankees held a pre-game ceremony, at which they played a video tribute to Steinbrenner, and closer Mariano Rivera laid roses at home plate. Shortstop Derek Jeter, introduced by the voice of Sheppard, spoke prior to a moment of silence for both Yankees icons.
New York did not lead the game, the opener of a three-game series between the AL East rivals, until the ninth inning. After Rivera (3-1) threw a scoreless top of the ninth to keep it a 4-4 game, Randy Choate (2-3) took the mound in the bottom half for the Rays.
Curtis Granderson began the frame with a single to right, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena. After Choate walked Brett Gardner, he was replaced by Dan Wheeler, who struck out Jeter. Rays manager Joe Maddon brought in Lance Cormier, but the move didn't work as Swisher punched a base hit to right to plate Granderson with the winning run.
Friday's contest began the second half of the season for both teams, who sit atop the division. New York entered the game with baseball's best record (56-32), while Tampa Bay trailed by two games.
The Rays got the early advantage in the back-and-forth affair against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, scoring in the second inning on Willy Aybar's sacrifice fly.
In the following inning, Tampa Bay had a runner on second with two outs for Evan Longoria, who smacked a pitch down the left-field line. The ball was fair, but caromed off the stands into the outfield, allowing Jason Bartlett to come home.
The Yankees got that run back in the bottom half, when Swisher hit an RBI single. The right fielder finished the contest 3-for-5.
The Rays had a big scoring opportunity in the fifth, when they loaded the bases with nobody out. However, they got only one run out of the situation, as Bartlett scored on a double-play groundout by Longoria, making it a 3-1 game.
Cano and Posada erased that deficit in the sixth, hitting two-out home runs off Rays starter James Shields. Cano hit a low-and-away slider to right-center field, while Posada hammered a high fastball to right. Shields got the final out of the inning to end his outing.
The Rays took the lead again in the seventh, but again wasted an opportunity. B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford opened the inning with singles to put runners on first and third, and an intentional walk to Longoria loaded the bases with nobody out.
Grant Balfour held the Yankees scoreless in the home half before David Robertson struck out the side in the top of the eighth. That set the stage for Swisher, who led off the bottom half with a homer deep to right off Joaquin Benoit.
New York also did not use a PA announcer Friday to honor Sheppard...Sabathia allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out six. Three of his four runs were earned. The left-hander had won his last eight starts, a streak which ended with Friday's no-decision, but he extended his home undefeated streak to 16 starts...Shields allowed four hits, walked three and fanned five...New York opened a nine-game homestand...The Rays begin the second half with a nine-game road trip.