Slade Heathcott’s homer led to the Yankees winning their biggest game of the year

Slade Heathcott.

Slade Heathcott.

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-1, on Monday night at Tropicana Field, as Slade Heathcott had the biggest hit of his rookie season. With the win, the Yankees gained a half a game in the AL East to move three games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays.

Tampa was winning 1-0 going into the top of the ninth after Logan Forsythe hit a double off of Justin Wilson to score Mikie Mahtook, and it appeared that the Yankees were on their way to a deflating loss, but Heathcott hit a 3-run homer to drive in Brian McCann and Chris Young that landed just over the wall in left field. John Ryan Murphy gave Heathcott a quick scouting report on Rays closer Brad Boxberger and it ended up helping because Heathcott’s blast gave the Yankees a big come from behind win.

Heathcott pinch-hit in the ninth and it was his first at-bat in the majors since May 27, when he went on the disabled list. He was called up from Triple-A on Saturday. Heathcott now has a .389 average with two homers, six RBIs and four runs scored in 18 at-bats. Alex Rodrguez was impressed with how Heathcott was able to step up in such an important at-bat.

“Just tremendous,” Rodriguez said. “You get caught up and I become a fan when you’re watching a young kid with so much talent. Big, signature Yankee moment.”

CC Sabathia, who had what was his biggest start of the season, thought the same about Heathcott’s hit. “You just look at our dugout, the way they reacted, it’s the biggest hit of the season,” CC Sabathia said of Heathcott’s blast. The Yankees are now 3-54 when trailing after eight innings.

Brett Gardner stole second after drawing a two out walk in the ninth. Alex Rodriguez was able to keep the game alive and get the Yankees on the scoreboard with a double to deep right that scored Gardner. That was Rodriguez’s 82nd RBI of the season, which is tied for 12th in the American League.

Sabathia allowed zero earned runs in a start for the first time this season. He pitched 6.2 innings, only allowed three hits and recorded six strikeouts. Sabathia gave the Yankees much more length on Monday as he allowed one run in 4.2 innings in his previous start.

“I thought his sinker was tremendous,” Joe Giradi said. “It just had a lot of movement. It seems like the knee brace has helped and he has kind of picked up where he left off.”

Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning and struck out three batters for his 33rd save in his first season as a closer. His ERA is now an outstanding 1.83. The Yankees had three errors during the game, but as a result of their ninth inning rally with two outs it didn’t cost them the win. The victory made their chance of catching the Blue Jays more realistic.

Adam Warren will make the start in Game 2 of the series since Nathan Eovaldi has elbow inflammation. It will be Warren’s first start since June 25.

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