ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Charlie Morton came up big again for the Tampa Bay Rays.
He struck out 10 in five and two-thirds innings to help the Rays split a four-game series with the leaders in the American League East, the Yankees, in a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Morton (10-2) allowed one run, five hits and one walk in lowering his A.L.-best earned run average to 2.32. Morton, who was named to the All-Star team, has given up two or fewer runs in 15 of 19 starts.
“I feel good about my body of work in the first half,” Morton said. “I think for the most part I kept the team in the game.”
Emilio Pagan, Tampa Bay’s fourth reliever in the game, worked the ninth to get his fifth save and complete a five-hitter.
Brett Gardner homered and James Paxton (5-4) gave up two runs and seven hits with 11 strikeouts over six innings for the Yankees, who have a lead of six and a half games over Tampa Bay.
“We’re in a really good spot,” Gardner said. “Over all, I think the first half has gone really well for us. We played some good baseball. We’ve, obviously, dealt with a lot of adversity.”
The Yankees had 21 players spend a total of 24 stints on the injured list. The ace Luis Severino, reliever Dellin Betances and the slugger Giancarlo Stanton are among 13 players currently on the I.L.
The Yankees took the first two games of the series, both in extra innings, before the Rays won Saturday on Travis d’Arnaud’s tiebreaking solo homer with two outs in the ninth.
“We were in every game, and they know that,” Rays left fielder Tommy Pham said. “It could have gone four games to zero either way. That just shows how tough we play each other.”
Gardner homered for the third consecutive game on a second-inning solo shot. It was his third homer in 17 at-bats against Morton.