By FRED GOODALL AP Baseball Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist homered
Tuesday night, helping the surging Tampa Bay Rays continue their
improbable chase for the AL wild card with a 5-3 victory over the
New York Yankees on Tuesday night.
The Rays, seeking their third playoff berth in four seasons, are
tied with Boston after making up nine games in the standings since
Sept. 4. The Red Sox beat Baltimore 8-7 Tuesday, and if the teams
are tied after their regular-season finales Wednesday they will
meet in a one-game playoff Thursday at Tropicana Field.
Joyce’s three-run homer off former teammate Rafael Soriano (2-3)
was the All-Star’s first in more than three weeks and wiped out a
3-2 deficit in the seventh. Zobrist hit a two-run drive off Bartolo
Colon in the second, and the Rays kept the score close by turning
the third triple play in franchise history after falling behind in
Jake McGee (4-2) pitched one scoreless inning to get the win.
With a crowd of 22,820 standing and cheering, Kyle Farnsworth got
the final three outs for his 25th save in 31 chances. The victory
was the fourth straight for Tampa Bay.
Russell Martin hit a solo homer for the Yankees, but also
grounded into the triple play that helped Hellickson escape further
damage after Nick Swisher’s RBI double gave New York a 3-2 lead in
The Yankees, who clinched the division title and homefield
advantage throughout the AL playoffs last week, rested Derek Jeter
and plan to play most _ if not all _ of their regular lineup again
on Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi remained undecided on a starting
pitcher for the finale, but it figures to be a reliever.
New York general manager Brian Cashman reiterated how nice it is
to be in a position to not have to go down to the wire.
“I’m not pulling for anybody. I know I’m glad that we were able
to do what we did,” Cashman said. “I know that both parties
involved, Boston and Tampa Bay, are having sleepless nights.
They’re hungry. Rather than have to live to through it, I think
both want to fast forward it to see what happens. I’ve been
Zobrist has homered five times in his last 10 games after going
39 games without hitting one. Martin’s solo homer trimmed the early
lead to 2-1, and the Yankees tied it in the fourth when Brett
Gardner, who had singled, scored from third as Curtis Granderson
grounded into a double play.
New York wasted a couple of opportunities to take charge against
Hellickson, who allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.
Mark Teixeira flied to right field with the bases loaded to end the
third, and the Yankees also failed to score with the bases filled
in the sixth, when Martin ground into a 5-4-3 triple play.
After Swisher’s RBI double, Jorge Posada drew an intentional
walk to load the bases against Hellickson with no outs. The rookie
escaped the jam when Martin hit a sharp grounder to third baseman
Evan Longoria, who stepped on the bag and threw to second baseman
Zobrist for the second out. Zobrist’s relay to first arrived ahead
of Martin, who dived head first into the base.
Colon allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings. Girardi
used four relievers _ Soriano, Cory Wade, David Robertson and
Mariano Rivera _ in their final tuneup for the playoffs.
NOTES: Rays DH Johnny Damon singled in the second inning, moving
past Lou Gehrig into sole possession of 57th place on the career
hits list with 2,722. .. Tampa Bay and Boston both are trying to
become the first team to start a season 0-6 and make the playoffs.
… Cashman flew to Florida to take part in a postseason
organizational meeting with Girardi and his coaching staff. More
talks will take place Wednesday. … Girardi said it’s possible the
Yankees will use three starters and have 10 or 11 pitchers overall
for the opening playoff round. LHP CC Sabathia and RHP Ivan Nova
will start Games 1 and 2. The Yankees have not announced their Game
3 starter. … Cashman confirmed that the New York Mets denied the
Yankees request to have their Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team
play one season in Newark. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s stadium is
undergoing major renovations.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)