ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- OK, it wasn't a great road trip -- two up, three down, and another precious game lost in the division race -- but it's a lot better to go home after a win rather than a loss. And that's what the Yankees will do after Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Rays. They also win the series 2-1 and now come home for six games against a couple of bottom-feeders, the Astros and White Sox.
This one had a little bit of everything -- solid starting pitching, excellent infield defense, flawless relief, a string of timely hits, and a late home run that provided a little breathing room for David Robertson to earn his 33rd save of the season, and his 21st consecutive save since blowing one to the Twins on June 1.
Hiro-ic effort: Hiroki Kuroda looked like he was destined for another brief appearance after the first inning, when he gave up two hits and a run and easily could have allowed more. But he was saved by an excellent play by Martin Prado at second base. Kuroda then settled down to pitch into the seventh inning, at one point retiring 17 batters in a row, and left the game clinging to a one-run lead with runners at first and third and two outs. Shawn Kelley came on to strike out pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer to end the inning. Pitching on extra rest, Kuroda's line -- 6 2/3 innings, just four hits, and two runs -- was his best in nearly a month.
Making his Mark: The Yankees got a huge insurance run -- and finally, a hitter with 20 home runs -- when Mark Teixeira hit an 0-1 pitch from Joel Peralta into the right-field seats with one aboard in the eighth inning. The shot made it a 4-2 game and gave Teixeira back the team lead in RBIs with 53, one ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury. He also tied Joe DiMaggio for 80th on the all-time home run list with 361.
In the big inning: The Yankees' offense started a hit storm of biblical proportions, relatively speaking, in the fifth, when they capitalized on a two-out walk to Stephen Drew and a favorable call on an 0-2 pitch that looked like Strike 3 to Prado. They strung together four straight hits, the first a double by Prado that broke up Jeremy Hellickson's no-hit bid, to take a 3-1 lead. Brett Gardner followed Prado's double with a single that drove in two runs, Derek Jeter bounced one through the infield to keep the inning going, and Ellsbury -- who had not had a hit since a solo homer in the ninth inning of last Sunday's loss to the Indians -- singled to score Gardner from third. Hellickson, who had cruised through the first four innings, needed 38 pitches to get through the fifth.
Aw, Hellickson: Incredibly, Hellickson has not won at home since July 5, 2013, a stretch of nine starts.
Chasing glory: Chase Headley, who has played a solid third base since being acquired for Yangervis Solarte in July, made a terrific, full lay-out, diving catch on James Loney's liner to end the fourth inning. The shot had double written all over it.
Coulda been worse: The Rays got a first-inning run off Kuroda on singles by Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce and a groundout by Evan Longoria that Prado made a diving stop on. That scored Zobrist from third base, but the Rays could have had more had the ball gotten through the infield. Conceivably, Joyce would have gotten to third on the hit, and might have scored on what turned out to be an inning-ending flyout by Loney. Prado also made a nice play on Jose Molina's fifth-inning grounder, turning a pirouette after fielding the ball and throwing the heavy-legged Molina out at first. He made a similar play on Zobrist an inning later.
What's next: The penultimate -- that means second-to-last -- day off of the season, followed by a stretch of 13 consecutive games beginning with a three-game series against the Astros at home on Tuesday night. The pitching matchups: Chris Capuano (1-3, 4.13) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 3.87) on Tuesday night, Michael Pineda (2-2, 1.82) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (6-9, 4.45) on Wednesday night and Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 2.30) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (10-8, 3.11) on Thursday afternoon.