Zoilo Almonte provided much-needed pop in his first major league start, homering and adding two singles Friday night that led the New York Yankees over the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2.
Almonte started in place of slumping left fielder Vernon Wells and quickly delivered, a day after getting a pinch single for his first hit. The 24-year-old rookie was promoted from Triple-A this week, joining an injury-ravaged team that's had trouble scoring.
Almonte also showed off a strong arm in helping the Yankees win for the third time in 10 games.
David Phelps (5-4) beat Roberto Hernandez (4-8) and the Rays for the second time in a month. Tampa Bay was trying for its first three-game winning streak in June.
Phelps gave up two runs in 5 2-3 innings. The Yankees used four relievers to finish it, with Mariano Rivera closing in a non-save situation.
Before Almonte's solo homer in the sixth inning made it 5-2, the Yankees played a lot of small ball.
Robinson Cano hit a sacrifice fly in the first and Ichiro Suzuki got an RBI with a soft comebacker in the third. The next inning, Jayson Nix grounded into a bases-loaded double play for a 3-2 lead and David Adams followed with an infield hit for another run.
The switch-hitting Almonte went 3 for 4, making him 4 for 6 in the majors. His home run sailed over the right-center wall and was caught on the fly in the Yankees' bullpen, sure to become a prized souvenir.
Almonte got a hug from Cano, his fellow Dominican, when he reached the dugout. Cheered by festive fans on a pleasant first night of summer, Almonte emerged for a brief curtain call.
Lyle Overbay singled home a run with two outs in the Yankees eighth. That gave Almonte one more at-bat, but he struck out.
Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single in the Tampa Bay third. Luke Scott hit a single that made it 2-all in the fourth and the Rays went on to load the bases with one out. Matt Joyce hit a fly ball that Almonte caught on the run at medium depth, and his swift throw forced Scott to hold at third base. Desmond Jennings flied out to end the threat.