Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge
AP Photo/Steve Nesius

A pair of home runs from Aaron Judge helped the New York Yankees earn another close win at Tropicana Field.

Geoff Magliocchetti

Yogi Berra would be pleased with the New York Yankees‘ deja vu experience on Friday night.

Aaron Judge‘s second home run of the evening came in extra innings in the form of a solo blast to permanently give the Yankees the lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. For the second straight night, the Yankees earned an 8-4 win at Tropicana Field thanks to clutch home runs making up for a blown bullpen lead.

Judge started and ended the game with his trademark brand of power. His solo shot off Brendan McKay gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead, one the would hold for four innings.

Tampa Bay responded in the fourth with a little bit of personal history. Nate Lowe’s fourth-inning blast was the first home run of his career, knotting things up at one apiece.

Both teams struck in the fifth inning. The Yankees (57-29) would plate two runs on a single from Mike Tauchman, while the Rays earned another solo shot from Mike Zunino.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka couldn’t duplicate his usual dominance against the Rays, but still managed to throw a respectable 6.1 innings, a stark improvement from only retiring two batters in London. The touted rookie McKay would go five in his first career start against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the seventh. Tanaka was able to get the first out, but a Mike Brosseau double got him in trouble. A walk to Zunino, which included a wild pitch that allowed Brosseau to move to third and subsequently forced Tanaka out of the game.

The incoming Nestor Cortes was unable to strand the runners. He would strike out Tommy Pham, but only after hitting Austin Meadows with a pitch. Kevin Kiermaier cashed on the bases loaded opportunity with a single that scored Brosseau and Zunino.

The lead disappeared as quickly as it came. Pinch-hitting for Tauchman to lead off the eighth, Aaron Hicks homered to right off of Emilio Pagan. His seventh of the season indirectly sent the game into extra innings for the second straight night.

Two shutout innings, including a perfect tenth, were overseen by Yankees reliever David Hale (W, 2-0). Ryne Stanek (L, 0-2) sought to match the feat, but was immediately denied by Judge, who crushed a 442-foot blast to center to get the Yankee lead back.

Stanek managed to force Edwin Encarnacion into a groundout and strikeout Didi Gregorius, but the inning was extended through a Gleyber Torres single and Gio Urshela double. Brett Gardner brought them and himself home with a three-run home run to solidify the lead.

Tampa Bay (50-39) once again threatened a comeback in their final frame. Hale struck out Willy Adames, but consecutive singles forced the services of Aroldis Chapman. He would strike out Guillermo Heredia before maximizing drama by walking Travis d’Arnaud to load the bases. However, Pham lined a 3-1 pitch into the glove of DJ LeMahieu to end the game in the Yankees’ favor.

The Yankees now lead the second-place Rays by 8 1/2 games in the AL East. They also ensured at least a split for the seventh consecutive series. A win can be secured in the third game of this four-tilt set on Saturday late afternoon (4:10 p.m. ET, YES). CC Sabathia (5-4, 4.04 ERA) will face Blake Snell (5-7, 4.87 ERA).

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