ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - DJ LeMahieu homered twice for the first time in two years, Gerrit Cole won on the road for the first time in two months and the sliding New York Yankees beat the AL wild card-leading Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 on Friday night.
Last-place New York (62-66), in danger of ending its streak of 30 consecutive winning seasons, won for just second time in 12 games.
LeMahieu put the Yankees ahead with a fifth-inning homer off Zach Eflin (13-8) and homered in the eighth against Trevor Kelley. It was the seventh multihomer game for LeMahieu and first since May 5, 2021, against Washington.
"It was so good to see," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Again, I think just a little more life within his load, getting on his backside a little bit. Building a little speed in his swing. I just he’s a little faster."
Cole (11-4) had been 0-2 in six road starts since beating the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 3. He matched his season high of 11 strikeouts, allowing two runs — one earned — and three hits in 7 2/3 innings. His AL-leading ERA dropped from 3.03 to 2.95.
"I said to him afterwards, I said, `That’s about as good, as I’ve seen right there,’" Boone said. "He’s in the middle of a really special season."
Cole said he worked with Yankees’ coaches and an unnamed friend that’s probably going to be in the Hall of Fame one day on mechanics going backwards from the release point to address some inconsistencies getting through the ball.
"It doesn’t always work out where you see the results right away, the results were definitely there," Cole said. "It was a good adjustment."
After rookie Everson Pereira put the Yankees ahead 2-0 with an RBI single in the sixth, Yandy Díaz homered in the bottom half for the Rays (78-52). The AL batting leader went 1 for 3 and remained at .326.
Tampa Bay’s second run off Cole was unearned and came around on Brandon Lowe’s RBI single in the eighth against Jonathan Loáisiga, who finished a four-hitter.
Eflin failed in his bid to become the AL’s first 14-game winner. He gave up two runs and seven hits, striking out a season-best 11 over six innings. He threw a season-high 103 pitches.
"We saw two of the best pitchers in the American League going today, and they kind of went toe to toe," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Aaron Judge struck out four times, including three against Eflin, and walked once. It was the ninth time in his career the slugger has fanned four or more times in a game, and the first time since June 23, 2021 against Kansas City.
Gleyber Torres had an RBI double in the seventh, and Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run double.
DICKIE V IN THE HOUSE
College basketball icon and Rays’ fan Dick Vitale was at the game and received a loud ovation from the crowd when shown on the video board. Vitale completed his fifth week of radiation treatments on Friday for vocal cord cancer and has one week remaining.
Cole has allowed two runs or fewer in 20 of 27 starts, most in the majors. He has gone six innings or more in 21 outings, topping the AL.
Stanton’s bat broke into several pieces on a first-inning grounder to third, with one part ending up around 10 feet onto the outfield turf behind shortstop.
Yankees: 3B Josh Donaldson (strained right calf) traveled with the team and could be nearing a minor league rehab assignment. … 1B Anthony Rizzo (post-concussion syndrome) may take batting practice in the next few days.
Rays: SS Taylor Walls (left oblique strain) is set to start a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday and could be back next Friday.
Yankees RHP Clarke Schmidt (8-7) and Rays RHP Tyler Glasnow (6-4) are Saturday’s starters.