St. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The New York Yankees can take this one and run with it, a marathon of a game decided after 4½ hours by a walk. After blowing a lead on Friday, and getting blown out on Saturday, the Yankees will take it heading into a three-game series at Fenway with the Boston Red Sox.
They overcame three errors, some questionable managerial strategy, at least one head-scratching call by the umpires, and a five-inning hitting drought to outlast the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-1, in this Easter Sunday Eggstravaganza.
Walk of fame: A dramatic eight-pitch at-bat by Dean Anna, including two fouled off two-strike pitches and a fortunate call by plate umpire Clint Fagan on a check swing, resulted in a bases-loaded walk that forced in the go-ahead run with two out in the 12th.
The inning was set up by Brian McCann's opposite-field single against the shift that gave the Yankees runners on first and third -- and nearly scored Brett Gardner from first -- plus Rays manager Joe Maddon's gamble of walking Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases for Anna with a rookie, C.J. Riefenhauser, on the mound. Add in the that fact that Joe Girardi had pinch run for Derek Jeter -- who would have come up in Anna's spot -- the previous inning, and it was a fortuitous turn of events for the Yankees, to say the least.
Floodgates, open: Anna's walk seemed to drop the ceiling on the Rays. Carlos Beltran followed with a two-run single up the middle, and Alfonso Soriano dropped a flare into short right that brought home another run, extending the Yankees' lead to 5-1.
Stop, thief!: Running for Jeter after the Cap led off the 11th with a single, Ichiro Suzuki was called safe on a steal of second. But Maddon challenged the call -- video replays seemed to show second baseman Logan Forsythe getting the tag down in time -- and it was reversed, changing the entire complexion of the inning. Strikeouts by Soriano and Mark Teixeira snuffed out the threat.
Strong case: Vidal Nuno laid out his argument for why he should get Nova's spot in the rotation with five tidy innings in which he allowed three hits and no runs, walked two and struck out six. As always, Nuno was economical (69 pitches), around the plate (46 strikes), changed speeds well and was unafraid to challenge hitters when necessary, despite a fastball that rarely hit 90 mph. Most importantly, he cooled down a lineup that had scored 27 runs in the previous two games. A solid outing.
Nice try, tough call: Rays right fielder Wil Myers nearly pulled a fast one on the umpires and the Yankees in the fourth inning, when he leaped high against the wall for Gardner's long drive and appeared to have made a spectacular catch, which would have ended the inning and stranded a runner at second.
In fact, first-base umpire Rob Drake, trailing the play, made an out call. But the replay clearly showed the ball hit a wire fence between the top of the wall and the yellow home-run stripe and caromed into Myers' glove. Once Gardner realized the ball was in the park, he sprinted around the bases and scored, but after Girardi challenged the play, the umpires "awarded" Gardner a ground-rule RBI double, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead. It appeared as if Gardner and the Yankees were actually penalized by the ruling because in effect, the ball was in play and the play should not have been stopped.
Good shift: The Yankees escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the fourth when Nuno struck out Longoria, and then Brian Roberts, positioned to the left of second against the right-handed hitting Myers, ranged behind the bag to snag what looked like an RBI single, instead throwing out Myers to end the inning.
No Nuno No-no: Nuno did not allow the Rays a hit until Ben Zobrist singled with one out in the fourth, followed by Logan Forsythe's double. Up until then, Nuno had allowed only a first-inning walk to Zobrist, and he was subsequently erased on a double play.
Stranded: Nuno got into trouble in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single by James Loney and walking Brandon Guyer to give the Rays runners on first and second with none out, but escaped damage by getting Yunel Escobar and Ryan Hanigan to line out to Gardner in left, and striking out Sean Rodriguez.
Non-transferable: Brian Roberts' bobble of a throw from Yangervis Solarte on what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball helped the Rays tie the game on an unearned run in the seventh. Instead of inning over, or two outs and a man on first, the Rays had two on, one out. Escobar singled to load the bases and pinch hitter Matt Joyce lined out to right, the sacrifice fly scoring Loney from third.
What's next: A day off for the Yankees to figure out what to do next with the rotation, followed by a trip to Boston for three games against the Red Sox, with the added attraction of Ellsbury's return to Fenway Park.
Pitching matchups for the series:
** All games at 7:10 p.m.