NEW YORK (AP) — Gary Sanchez homered and almost hit another while Tampa Bay was trying to intentionally walk him, leading Masahiro Tanaka and the hard-charging New York Yankees to their season-best seventh straight win, 5-1 over the Rays on Saturday.
The Yankees closed within three games of AL East-leading Boston, their closest to the lead since mid-April. They began the day one game behind Baltimore and Detroit for the second wild-card spot, with the Orioles playing the Tigers later at night.
Tanaka (13-4) struck out 10 and took a shutout into the eighth inning. Chris Archer (8-18) tied the Tampa Bay record for losses in a season, set by Tanyon Sturtze in 2002.
It was scoreless in the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer and Sanchez followed with a long drive.
In the eighth, after Ellsbury's double put runners on second and third with no outs, the Rays seemed set to walk Sanchez. Catcher Bobby Wilson moved wide as reliever Enny Romero lobbed in his first pitch at 52 mph, but the ball drifted close to the plate and Sanchez socked it to the warning track for a sacrifice fly.
From the dugout, Rays manager Kevin Cash seemed to say, "What happened?"
Sanchez connected for the second straight day, giving the 23-year-old rookie 13 home runs in 125 at-bats this season.
Tanaka won his sixth straight decision, giving up five hits and walking none. He left in the eighth after Bobby Wilson homered with one out and Logan Forsythe was hit by a pitch.
An All-Star last year, Archer leads the majors in the losses this season — James Shields, who has lost 17 with the Padres and White Sox, pitched Saturday night.
Archer fanned six and tops the AL with 217 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan is the only AL pitcher to ever lead the league in losses and strikeouts, doing it in 1976 with the Angels.
Ellsbury tagged a familiar target when he lined his eighth home run, a shot into the right-center field seats. Ellsbury is 19 for 34 (.559) with two homers against Archer, the most hits by anyone off the right-hander.
Longoria, who has the most hits and RBIs among visiting players at the new Yankee Stadium, nearly added to those totals in the sixth. But with a runner on third and one out, he sliced a line drive that right fielder Rob Refsnyder neatly caught on the run.
Rays: Brad Miller was at 1B, a day after he was the DH while recuperating from being hit by a pitch in the right elbow. ... RHP Chase Whitley is likely to make his Rays debut Sunday, pitching in relief. He started for the Yankees last year, had Tommy John surgery in May and was acquired Tampa Bay in November.
Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (6-7, 4.58) is 0-7 with a 6.11 ERA in his last 15 games, eight of them starts. The last Tampa Bay pitcher to lose eight straight decisions was Dan Wheeler in 2007-08.
Yankees: RHP Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.07) makes his fifth start in the majors. The Yankees have won all four games he's started.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.