Updated at: 05/22/2017 1:11 AM
By MARK DIDTLER
(AP) ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) â€” Yankees manager Joe Girardi couldn't help but smile when talking about 5-foot-11 Brett Gardner going deep again and 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge making an unbelievable diving catch.
Gardner hit his eighth home run, one more than this 2016 total, and CC Sabathia won consecutive starts for the first time in nearly a year to help New York beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 Sunday and avoid a three-game sweep.
Didi Gregorius had an RBI single in the second for the second of his four hits and Gardner followed with his drive to right. All of Gardner's home runs have come in a 20-game span starting April 19.
"It sounds a little crazy, but last year I was really inconsistent and just not at my best," Gardner said. "The first three or four weeks this season I wasn't any good, either. Here recently I've been swinging the bat better."
Judge made a full extension diving backhand catch on the right field warning track in the sixth to rob Evan Longoria of a tying extra-base hit, starting a double play that doubled up Corey Dickerson at first.
"Obviously, one of the biggest plays for us this year," Sabathia said.
Judge said he had a good read on the ball off the bat.
"Saw I might have a chance, and just dove for it," he added.
Sabathia (4-2), coming off a win at Kansas City, allowed two runs and four hits in five-plus innings. He had not won back-to-back starts since June 10 against Detroit and six days later at Minnesota.
Tyler Clippard stranded Kevin Kiermaier at third in the seventh when he relieved Chad Green and retired Logan Morrison on a flyout on the 11th pitch of an at-bat. Dellin Betances got four outs - three on strikeouts - for his second save.
Chris Archer (3-3) struck out a season-high 12, including Judge and Matt Holliday three times each. He gave up three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"The play that Judge made was really the difference-maker," Archer said.
Judge struck out four times overall and the Yankees fanned 17 times, which tied the team record for a nine-inning game. Still, New York won for just the fourth time in 11 games.
Dickerson scored from second in the first inning when catcher Gary Sanchez was charged with an error for an errant throw attempting to pick off Longoria at first base.
Derek Norris hit a solo homer in the fifth.
There was no carry over from Saturday's game that had three hit batters and three ejections.
Yankees: 1B Greg Bird (bruised right ankle) could hit off a tee and take soft toss Monday. ... Girardi said closer Aroldis Chapman (left shoulder rotator cuff inflammation) feels good and will be re-evaluated Monday to determine when the lefty can start a throwing program. ... Girardi had an ice pack on his right knee after the game. He had meniscus surgery on it Monday.
MOVIN' ON UP
New York is promoting top prospect Gleyber Torres from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell said on the team's radio show.
The Yankees also promoted RHP Jose Mesa, the son of former major league pitcher Jose Mesa, from Class A Tampa to Double-A Trenton.
Charlotte, the Rays' Florida State League affiliate, had its game Saturday against Jupiter postponed in the fourth inning when the protective netting behind the plate fell. The teams played a doubleheader on a back field Sunday at the complex in Port Charlotte, where the host Stone Crabs had a photo on their Twitter site showing complimentary hot dogs and burgers on a portable grill.
Girardi said the Yankees are returning to "square one" when it comes to struggling ace Masahiro Tanaka, who has allowed 14 runs and seven homers over 4 2/3 innings in his last two starts. "Sometimes, you can try to change this, change that," Girardi said. "Let's get back to what made you successful."
Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (4-2) will face Kansas City LHP Jason Vargas (5-2) on Monday night in a rematch of New York's 11-7 win over the Royals last Wednesday. Pineda allowed four runs in six innings.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-2) and Los Angeles Angels RHP J.C. Ramirez (3-3) are Monday night's starters. Angels OF Mike Trout is a .362 hitter in 13 games at Tropicana Field.
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)