NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees erupted early Sunday, one big inning giving them a boost to provide Hiroki Kuroda the support he would need when the Tampa Bay Rays threatened later.
Russell Martin hit a three-run homer and Eduardo Nunez continued to spark the Yankees' offense with a pair of runs scored and three stolen bases as New York topped Tampa Bay 6-4, to take a key series.
The Yankees moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, pending the result of Baltimore's later game against the Oakland A's. Tampa Bay fell five games back of the Yankees in the East and 3 1/2 behind the Orioles for the second wild card.
Along with losing five of six to the teams they're chasing in the AL East, the Rays had a couple of run-ins with home plate umpire Paul Emmel on Sunday. Manager Joe Maddon was ejected in the fifth inning while Matt Joyce got tossed after arguing a called third strike in the eighth.
Kuroda (14-10) gave up four runs on four hits while striking out 10 and walking two.
Rafael Soriano watched the tying run come to the plate after an error by Alex Rodriguez in the ninth, but got Jeff Keppinger to hit into a game-ending double play for his 40th save of the season.
Rays starter Matt Moore (10-11) coughed up five runs on three hits in just three innings.
Ben Zobrist homered for the Rays, who head back to Florida for a seven-game home stand.
The Yankees erupted for five runs in the third, led by Martin's three-run homer to right. Nunez started the inning with a walk and stole second before Derek Jeter singled him in for a 1-0 lead. Rodriguez later added a RBI single and then Martin blasted his 17th homer of the season to give New York a 5-0 lead.
When Moore, who walked three batters in the inning, threw a pitch high and tight to Curtis Granderson, following the homer, Emmel warned both benches.
Maddon apparently disagreed with that decision and was ejected, as he got into a lengthy, animated argument with the ump.
Tampa Bay scored its first run in the fourth, on Zobrist's homer to right, but the Yankees countered in the bottom of the inning with Nunez again showing some speed on the bases. After he reached on an error, Nunez stole second and third and eventually scored on Rodriguez's sacrifice fly to make it 6-1.
Kuroda had mostly cruised, but the Rays sneaked back into the game with a three-run sixth. A two-run single by Evan Longoria brought Tampa Bay within 6-3 and put runners at first and third with no one out.
But Kuroda got Joyce to hit into a double play, which scored a run to make it 6-4, but effectively killed the rally. Kuroda struck out B.J. Upton to end the inning.
NOTES: Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start Tuesday's game, his first appearance since he fractured his left ankle on June 27. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Pettitte will be limited to about 70 pitches. Pettitte said his abbreviated season might cause him to consider pitching again next year after initially thinking he would come out of retirement to pitch only this season. ... Rays right fielder Sam Fuld left the game in the middle of the fifth with a mild right hamstring strain, an injury he sustained running out a grounder to end Tampa Bay's side of the fifth. ... Maddon's ejection was his fourth of the season.