By BERNIE WILSON
The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres hit impressive home runs, Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-1 Thursday night to force a deciding fifth game in their AL Division Series.
The Yankees bounced back from two straight losses against their AL East rivals to set up an expected showdown between aces Gerrit Cole of New York and Tyler Glasnow of Tampa Bay on Friday night.
Cole, backed by four home runs, beat Snell 9-3 in the series opener Monday and will be pitching on short rest for the first time in his big league career. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the decision was made when he passed his ace Thursday and made eye contact.
“Hey, give me the ball,” he remembered Cole saying.
Cole said he took inspiration from watching CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander and other past aces carry teams on short rest.
“When the lights turn on, it doesn’t matter if it’s three, four, five, six, seven days,” Cole said. “It’s a special opportunity.
Glasnow will be pitching on two days’ rest after throwing 93 pitches.
The Game 5 winner will remain in San Diego to face the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series starting Sunday night.
The Yankees are trying to reach the ALCS for the third time in four seasons following eliminations by the Astros at that stage in 2017 and last season. The Rays are trying to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2008, when they made it to their only World Series.
Wearing their home pinstripes for a second straight night at neutral site Petco Park, the Yankees lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname.
Voit, who led the majors with 22 homers in the pandemic-shortened season, led off the second by driving a 1-0 pitch from Rays opener Ryan Thompson into the second deck in left field for his first career postseason shot.
Torres one-upped his teammate when he deposited a two-run homer onto the balcony on the fourth floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner, the centerpiece of the downtown ballpark. That came on the first pitch he saw from Ryan Yarbrough and put the Yankees ahead 4-1 with one out in the sixth.
It was Torres’ first this postseason and fifth of his career, tying Mickey Mantle for the most playoff homers for a Yankees player 23 or younger.
The only younger Yankees player to homer while facing postseason elimination was 20-year-old Mantle, in both Games 6 and 7 of the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Torres’ homer was the 18th of the series, with each team hitting nine.
New York kept Randy Arozarena in the ballpark after the 25-year-old Cuban homered in each of the first three games. Likewise, the Rays ended Giancarlo Stanton’s franchise-record run of homering in five straight games but he did double. Stanton hit four homers in the first three games of this series and had six total in the first five postseason games.
Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for five hitless innings of relief, retiring 15 of the last 16 batters. Green pitched two perfect innings for the win, and Chapman got four outs for his first save of this postseason. He struck out Arozarena on a 101 mph sinker to end the eighth.
Montgomery went four innings in his first appearance since Sept. 24, holding the Rays to one run and three hits while striking out four and walking three. He struck out Arozarena in the first and retired the breakout star on a grounder in the fourth.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the third but got just one run, on Brandon Lowe’s fielder’s choice.
It was a much better start than Montgomery had against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 2, when he was pulled after allowing four runs and five hits on 39 pitches, and getting only two outs.
Thompson took the loss. He was chased after allowing DJ LeMahieu’s sacrifice fly for the second out of the second.
∫ HIGGY’S POP: Kyle Higashioka went 2 for 4 in place of slumping catcher Gary Sánchez, who was benched for the third time in four games. Higashioka will start again Friday to catch Cole.
∫ TRAINER’S ROOM: Rays: RHP Oliver Drake was replaced on the ALDS roster by RHP Trevor Richards just hours before Game 4 due to what manager Kevin Cash said the team believes is a flexor strain. Drake will be ineligible to return if the Rays advance to the ALCS but would be eligible to return if they reach the World Series.
∫ UP NEXT: Yankees: Cole is 2-0 in the postseason. The Yankees will be the visiting team.
Rays: Glasnow won Game 2, allowing four runs in five innings.