NEW YORK – Kevin Kiermaier's voice was raspy, the toll of 16 celebrations over 17 games.
“We’re all huddled around,” the Rays center fielder said, describing the large circle that had just gathered in the clubhouse. “I just give all the pitchers shout-outs, nice defensive plays, homers, stuff like that, and then kind of finish it with my own little rap, jingle thing."
Kiermaier has had much to sing about. He sparked the offense behind Rich Hill, who threw five scoreless innings to finish May with the lowest monthly ERA in 75 years of a pitcher in his 40s, and Tampa Bay kept up its domination of the reeling Yankees with a 3-1 victory Monday.
Tampa Bay's 16-1 spurt opened a 5 1/2-game AL East lead over third-place New York — and led to postgame frivolity.
”Every and every year, I said, `Fellas, I don't have to do it if you don’t want it.' And everyone wants me to do it,” Kiermaier went on. “I’m glad my teammates don’t judge me for it, because when guys come over to get traded and see it for the first time, they’re just kind of bashful at times. But it’s all good fun.”
Kiermaier singled leading off the third against Jameson Tallion (1-4) and scored on Manuel Margot's double as right fielder Aaron Judge overthrew the cutoff man, and the Rays never trailed for the fifth straight game.
Austin Meadows homered into the right-field short porch in the fourth, a 334-foot drive would not have been out of any other big league ballpark, and Kiermaier doubled leading off the fifth and scored on Randy Arozarena's single.
“He's the leader in the clubhouse and he’s the heart and soul of this club,” Hill said.
A left-hander who at 41 is the oldest player in Rays’ history, he did not throw a single pitch that broke 90 mph yet improved to 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA against the Yankees this season. Hill need just 56 pitches and allowed three hits, helping by a diving stop on AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu that third baseman Yandy Díaz turned into an inning-ending double play from his knees. Five of New York’s first 16 batters hit his first pitch and six more hit his second.
Hill was 3-1 with a 0.78 ERA in six May starts, the third-lowest ERA in a calendar month for a pitcher 40 or older behind Cincinnati’s 41-year-old Eppa Rixey (0.60 in August 1933) and the Washington Senators’ 42-year-old Johnny Niggeling (0.64 in May 1946), according to STATS. Hill lowered his season ERA to 3.32.
Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Michael Wacha to start the sixth, extending Tampa Bay’s record streak of 729 games without a complete game since Matt Andriese’s two-hit shutout of Oakland on May 14, 2016.
“I know what we do here and how that buy-in is, and being on board is important for a total team win,” Hill said.
Miguel Andújar homered in the seventh off Wacha, and Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Thompson and J.P. Feyereisen finished a five-hitter. Feyereisen got his third save since he acquired May 21 from Milwaukee for shortstop Willy Adames.
“They really embrace whatever is asked of them on a daily basis,” Cash said. “It allows some flexibility to not get locked in on roles.”
The AL East-leading Rays (35-20) improved to 7-3 against the Yankees this season and became only the fourth visiting team in the last 30 years to win nine games in a 10-game span in the Bronx, after Seattle from 2000-03, Boston from 2010-11 and the Rays from 2013-14. Tampa Bay has won nine in a row overall in intra-division matchups.
“I don’t think anybody’s getting too far ahead of themselves or too exited,” Cash said. “We all recognize and appreciate this is a long season. It’s longer than the one that we experienced in 2020.”
Starting a key seven-game homestand against the Rays and second-place Boston, the Yankees (29-25) limped to the season’s one-third mark with their fourth straight defeat and sixth in seven games. The Yankees have scored two runs or fewer in nine of 12 games for the first time since August 1971.
“Control the strike zone and and do damage when you get a pitch that’s a mistake or your pitch to do damage with,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “That’s the identity we’ve got to get back to having.”
Shortstop Gleyber Torres made his third erro r in two days, and the Yankees grounded into their major league-high 52nd double play. Giancarlo Stanton was 0 for 4 and is hitless in 12 at-bats since coming off the injured list.
“Eventually,” Andújar said through a translator, “we're going to get out it.”
Hill became just the fifth pitcher 41 or older to lead a league in ERA over a calendar month, after Satchel Paige (42) in August 1948, Hoyt Wilhelm (43) in August 1965, Nolan Ryan (44) in June 1991 and (45) in September 1992 and Roger Clemens (42) in May 2005.
Rays: RHP Chaz Roe (strained right shoulder) is to start a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham on Tuesday. ... RHP Luis Patiño (cut right middle finger), activated an optioned Sunday, will work at a starter at Durham.
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27 last year) was to pitch a three-inning simulated game Monday and start a rehab assignment on Sunday for Low A Tampa, which would start a 30-day timetable for his possible return to the major league level. ... LHP Zack Britton (surgery March 15 to remove bone chip from left elbow) is to make his second rehab appearance Tuesday.
RHP Tyler Glasnow (4-2, 2.57) starts Tuesday for the Rays and RHP Domingo Germán (4-3, 3.06) for the Yankees.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports