ST. PETERSBURG — With the Yankees facing what manager Joe Girardi labeled one of their biggest tests of the season Tuesday night, veteran catcher Jorge Posada made sure they passed it.
Posada's mammoth, pinch-hit solo homer to lead off the 10th inning lifted New York to an 8-7 win over the Rays. The 432-foot blast may have been one of the Yankees' biggest hits of the season as it ended a four-game skid and brought them back into first place in the American League East.
"It was special," Posada said. "You lose four straight the way we've been losing, to really pull it off."
Rays reliever Dan Wheeler said Posada was sitting on his 2-and-0 fastball, ripping it off the top of Batter's Eye restaurant in centerfield.
"He's a professional hitter," Wheeler said. "And he got all of it."
It was Posada, one of the four longest-tenured Yankees with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who said after Monday's loss that they'd have to "keep grinding" and looking forward. After not starting two games in Texas last week due to a mild concussion, and entering Tuesday with two hits in his past 21 at-bats, Posada picked a great time for his first pinch-hit homer of the season. It loomed especially large considering three of New York's past four losses came in walkoff fashion.
"That's a huge home run for us," Girardi said. "On a road trip where we've had some real disappointing losses, that was a huge home run."
A spectacular catch by centerfielder Curtis Granderson set up Posada's homer. With two outs in the ninth, Granderson raced into the right-center gap and made a diving grab to rob Ben Zobrist of extra bases.
"I wasn't sure he was going to get there, but it was an unbelievable play laying out like that," Girardi said. "He probably felt a little rough when he got up, but it was great."
Granderson said the key was keeping an eye on the ball, which some Yankees had trouble doing in the Tropicana Field roof. He said it was big considering what the Rays can do with an extra at-bat.
"It felt good to go ahead and end the inning," he said. "Because any time an inning extends, especially against this lineup, it's always possible that something crazy is going to happen."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.