NEW YORK — Cameron Maybin realizes his time in pinstripes may be running out.
As Aaron Judge nears his return from the injured list, Maybin is making it difficult for the Yankees to think about cutting ties.
Maybin homered again with his roster spot in doubt, Edwin Encarnación went deep for his first hit with the Yankees and New York beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 Tuesday night to extend its AL East lead to 2 1/2 games.
“I’m thankful that I’m here,” Maybin said. “I’m enjoying every moment of it and I want to continue to be a piece of the puzzle.”
Maybin clobbered Oliver Drake’s fastball into the second deck in left, extending New York’s lead to 5-3 in the seventh. It was Maybin’s career-best fourth straight game with a home run and extended New York’s homer streak to 21 games.
“He’s been so awesome to have and to have in that room and what he means to those guys already and just how well he’s performed for us,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I love the player.”
The 32-year-old Maybin is hitting .315 since being acquired by the banged-up Yankees in April, but he still may get cut when Judge makes an expected from an oblique injury in the coming days.
“As long as I’m here and as long as I get an opportunity to step on the field with a group of guys who I feel like are my brothers, I’m going to continue to go out and play hard each and every day and leave it all out there,” Maybin said.
Playing through a mist in a contest that started over an hour late due to rain, New York won its fourth straight and has taken 9 of 12 against the second-place Rays dating to last season.
Gary Sanchez had two RBIs and J.A. Happ (7-3) pitched two-run ball over five innings. Giancarlo Stanton returned from the injured list to play right field and reached into the seats in foul territory for a key out in the second.
Ryne Stanek recorded four outs as the opener, allowing one run on Sanchez’s sacrifice fly. Ryan Yarbrough followed and retired nine of ten, his only blip a check-swing single by Luke Voit before being lifted with one out in the fifth.
The Yankees then broke through against Chaz Roe (0-3) behind RBI singles from DJ LeMahieu, Voit and Sanchez to take a 4-2 lead.
“Felt that was a good spot for Chaz to come in,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Acquired from Seattle on Saturday, Encarnación’s first hit in pinstripes came in grand fashion, clubbing his AL-leading 22nd homer off Andrew Kittredge in the eighth.
The team was able to retrieve the home run ball from a fan and give it to Encarnación as a keepsake.
Happ struck out three and is 6-0 in his last eight starts, dating to May 9.
Aroldis Chapman fanned the side in the ninth on twelve pitches for his 19th save in 21 chances.
Tampa Bay tied it with three consecutive one-out singles in the second but stranded two in scoring position when Stanton reached into the crowd to snag Joey Wendle’s foul fly. Avisail Garcia singled home a run an inning later.
The Rays lost back-to-back road games for just the second time this season.
Stanton was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first big league action since Mar. 31. The former NL MVP was activated from the injured list before the game.
“It felt good, better that we got the win,” Stanton said. “I didn’t swing at the best pitches tonight.”
Tampa Bay called up Kittredge from Triple-A Durham, optioning fellow reliever Jake Faria to make room.
Rays: INF Matt Duffy (left hamstring tightness) was scheduled to participate in batting practice with the GCL Rays Tuesday and also bat in a simulated game. … RHP Tyler Glasnow (right forearm strain) threw his first bullpen session since being injured May 10. He is expected to throw another on Friday. … 3B/1B Yandy Diaz (right hamstring tightness) is a “little nicked up”, according to Cash. He is day-to-day.
Yankees: RHP Domingo German (left hip flexor strain) played catch on flat ground both Monday and Tuesday. … RHP Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement) still has discomfort from a lat strain and is unsure when he’ll resume throwing. … RHP Luis Severino (rotator cuff inflammation in right shoulder) has begun throwing up to 105 feet and expects to throw off a mound next week. … Judge (left oblique strain) was 1 for 2 with a home run for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He could return as soon as Friday. … LHP Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery) threw live batting practice to minor league hitters but stopped after just 15 pitches. “He walked off. He had a little discomfort, so hoping it’s nothing more than just not feeling great on a particular day,” Boone said.
A battle of Cy Young Award winning left-handers is set for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale, with Rays ace Blake Snell (4-5, 3.70 ERA) facing off against veteran CC Sabathia (3-4, 4.42 ERA).
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