Pinch-hitting catcher Michael Perez was the late hero for Tampa Bay as his ninth-inning, walk-off single lifted the Rays over the Yankees by a 4-3 score on Sunday.
It also spoiled a stellar performance by starter James Paxton, who was mostly unhittable until the seventh inning when he forfeited the Yankees’ 3-0 lead on a pair of home runs.
The Yankees got on the board early after Rays starter Charlie Morton loaded the bases and hit Mike Ford with an errant pitch in the first inning. However, the bases were left loaded yet again for the Yankees this season as third baseman Gio Urshela grounded out to end the inning.
A Rays error helped the Yankees score two more in the fifth after Urshela put a deep drive to center that was bobbled and dropped by center fielder Manuel Margot, giving the bombers a 3-0 lead.
After six one-hit innings, Paxton faltered in the seventh by allowing back-to-back homers, the first being a two-run shot off the bat of first baseman Mike Brosseau and the second coming as a solo dent from second baseman Brandon Lowe to tie the game at 3-3.
Coming off his rough first outing against the Boston Red Sox where he allowed six runs, this time Paxton was nothing but business by striking out 11 while allowing only the two runs and four hits through 6.1 innings dealt.
Jonathan Holder came in for relief afterward, where he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by forcing right fielder Hunter Renfroe into a double play to end the inning.
The Yankees called on Zach Britton to close out the ninth inning, where he put runners on second and third, setting up Perez’s walk-off single.
One bright note for the Yankees is that shortstop DJ LeMahieu continued his hot batted ways, getting another two hits in the game, bumping his season total to 23 with a .397 average.
Ford took the DH spot in place of Giancarlo Stanton, who was played on the team’s 10-day IL on Sunday morning.
This loss puts the Yankees at 10-6 and 1-3 in the team’s weekend series played against the now 8-8 Rays.
The Yankees return to the Bronx for a quick, two-game series with the Atlanta Braves on both Tuesday and Wednesday night.