ST. PETERSBURG — The Yankees acted Saturday like a team far from ready to give up first place in the American League East.
They acquired two veterans — slugger Lance Berkman and reliever Kerry Wood — before the 4 p.m. trade deadline, adding to their acquisition of outfielder Austin Kearns on Friday night. Hours later, in what they labeled a playoff atmosphere, the Yankees overcame three deficits for a 5-4 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field to extend their division lead back to two games.
Of the Yankees' three homers in the game, Robinson Cano delivered the biggest, a solo shot off Rays closer Rafael Soriano in the ninth for the winning run, adding another chapter to his MVP-caliber season.
"That's certainly the look and the taste and the feel of an MVP, because that was a huge, huge hit against their closer on the road," said the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP. "Trying to protect first place, it doesn't get any bigger than that."
Rodriguez, who remained stuck on career home run No. 599 after his ninth straight game without one, was able to laugh off the drought because of how teammates have stepped up. He said the series' importance is the bigger focus.
"The way I'm swinging right now, it's probably going to take a while," Rodriguez said of reaching No. 600. "So everybody get comfortable. … People are asking me about home runs. I'm asking for a hit by pitch, infield hit, bunt single, error. I'll get on base anyhow. Home runs will come."
Mark Teixeira tied the score at 3 with a two-run blast in the sixth, and Nick Swisher tied it at 4 with a solo shot in the seventh.
"The atmosphere has been electric," Swisher said. "These games (including Friday's 3-2 loss) have been so close, coming down to the wire toward the end of the game. These are the games you want to be in."
Said Cano: "It feels like the playoffs. Fans get excited when they get an out. Every play, every pitch."
Cano, who ripped a 1-and-0 pitch from Soriano 424 feet into the rightfield seats, said he was just looking to get on base but had a "pretty good swing."
Said Rodriguez: "That was a Big Papi-type swing. That ball went like 450 feet."
The Yankees, who have the highest-scoring offense in the majors, were excited about adding more bats to the lineup in Berkman and Kearns.
Berkman is "going to be a big hitter for us," Cano said, "because with him hitting second and having (Swisher) six or seven, is going to make the lineup even stronger."
And that will make it even tougher for opposing teams.
"It's a ridiculous lineup," said Rays starter Matt Garza, who gave up four runs on five hits and struck out nine in seven innings. "Berkman comes in and makes that tough lineup even tougher. I don't know how many All-Stars are on that team. I think they could field an All-Star team with the lineup they have."