ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The New York Yankees got strong pitching from Hiroki Kuroda and strung together four consecutive hits in the fifth inning to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 and win the three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Yankees closer David Robertson got a 1-2-3 ninth to convert his 21st consecutive save opportunity, extending the longest streak in the majors, and Kuroda retired 17 in a row on the way to his eighth win of the season.
The Rays (61-63) had a chance to tie the game in the seventh inning, as outfielder Mark Joyce led off with a double, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on third baseman Evan Longoria's RBI single to left. Longoria was at third with two outs, representing the tying run, but reliever Shawn Kelley came in and struck out pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer to end the threat.
The Yankees (63-59) got an insurance run in the eighth inning when first baseman Mark Teixeira crushed a solo home run to right-center field off reliever Joel Peralta. Tampa Bay had gone 12 games allowing three runs or less, matching the longest streak by any team in the American League since the 1991 Blue Jays.
After beating the Yankees in the series opener to return to .500 after being 18 games below at one point, the Rays have dropped two in a row. They have Monday off before playing host to the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series. Former Rays ace David Price is slated to pitch against his former team Thursday afternoon. The Yankees have Monday off and play host to the Houston Astros for three games starting Tuesday.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but ran into trouble there with two outs, walking No. 8 hitter and shortstop Stephen Drew. Second baseman Martin Prado doubled to put two runners in scoring position and the Yankees followed with three consecutive singles.
Left fielder Brett Gardner gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead with a two-run single, then shortstop Derek Jeter followed to put runners on the corners. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury singled to left field to bring in another run, and while Hellickson got out of the inning, he needed 38 pitches for the fifth and was done for the day.
The Rays had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning when second baseman Ben Zobrist and left fielder Mark Joyce singled off Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. Third baseman Evan Longoria brought in a run with a groundout to second, and from there, Kuroda didn't allow a hit or run through six innings.
NOTES: The Rays came in with a team-record 12 straight games allowing three runs or less. The last American League team to go 13 games or more with such a streak was the 1991 Blue Jays. ... Yankees closer David Robertson has converted 20 save opportunities in a row, going back to June 5. He had the save in Saturday's win and has the longest save streak in the majors. Mariano Rivera had eight such 20-save streaks during his Yankees career. ... SS Derek Jeter this week moved past George Brett into ninth place on baseball's all-time list for games played by one person for a single time in their MLB career. In a few weeks, he can pass the Giants' Mel Ott for eighth.