Nunez sets the table with 3 steals

Eduardo Nunez realizes most of the Yankees' regulars aren't going to be looking to swipe bases. That's a job for the younger guys -- like him. One that he readily accepts.

"I think I can run a little bit," Nunez said. "We have a lot of older guys here, they can't steal bases a lot. The more stolen bases we have, the more chances we have to score runs."

Nunez aided the Yankees with three steals in Sunday's 6-4 win over the Rays. That's a career-high for him and the most stolen bases in a game by a Yankee since Brett Gardner nabbed three back in 2010. The Yankees are one of the worst teams when it comes to stolen bases, accumulating only 78 as the season nears its end.

"The pitcher knows I can steal a base and worry about me when I'm on base," Nunez said. "They can miss a couple of pitches and the hitter has a chance to get a base hit."

With a lineup built for home runs, the Yankees struggle at times to manufacture runs. That's why they need players like Nunez to provide speed on the base paths and steal a bag or two. Sunday, filling in for Derek Jeter at shortstop once again, Nunez got going early.

After a leadoff walk in the second, he stole second and then scored on Jeter's single to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, with the Yankees up 5-1, he reached on an error, stole second and third, and then gave the Yankees their sixth run on a sacrifice fly.

He accounted for a third of the team's runs despite going 0-for-3 on the afternoon.

"That's what I call small ball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Everyone wants to call bunting small ball, but it's more than just bunting. It just bring an element that you can create runs, and that's really important for clubs."