Aybar, Soriano spark Rays’ 5-3 win
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Rays are back in first place and one step closer to postseason play.
Tampa Bay reduced its magic number to three to clinch the franchise’s second playoff berth and moved into first place in the AL East by a half game after New York lost to Boston.
“That’s our goal, man. Our goal is to have the best record, our goal is to have the home-field advantage and our goal is to win the World Series,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays hold the tiebreaker if they finish the regular season tied with New York after winning the season series with the Yankees 10-8.
Soriano, the fourth Tampa Bay reliever, pitched the ninth to break Roberto Hernandez’s franchise save record set in 1999.
“I’m happy with all that’s happening this year,” Soriano said.
“I don’t see this lingering more than five, six days,” Longoria said.
Vargas gave up five runs and six hits over 4 1-3 innings.
“They fouled off a lot of pitches, pitches I left up,” Vargas said. “When I left it over the plate, they were able to put it in play.”
Jeff Niemann(notes) (11-7) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings and won for the first time since returning from a strained right shoulder on Aug. 25. The Rays right-hander had been 0-4 with 14.43 ERA over his previous five starts after a 20-game stint on the disabled list.
“Everything fell back into place,” Niemann said.
Adam Moore(notes) had a pair of run-scoring singles for the Mariners, who are 23-53 on the road this season. Ichiro Suzuki(notes) went 2 for 5, giving him a major league-best 65 multi-hit games this year.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I expected to be,” Varvaro said.
The announced crowd was just 17,840.
Notes: The Rays are 47-29 at home. Tampa Bay was just 20-19 after the first 39 home games this year. … Aaron Sele (2008) and Carlos Silva(notes) (2008) also dropped seven starts in a row for Seattle. … Gutierrez was back in the starting lineup. He pinch-hit on Thursday after missing two games due to flulike symptoms. … Mariners INF Russell Branyan(notes), sidelined the past week by back stiffness, has not resumed taking batting practice. … Seattle RHP Felix Hernandez(notes) (12-12, 2.31 ERA) will make his next start Tuesday on regular rest, although it has not been announced if he also will pitch in the regular-season finale five days later.