ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Alex Cobb shut down the New York Yankees to win 8-3 in front of 24,159 at Tropicana Field on Sunday.
Cobb pitched an impressive 8 1/3 innings before the struggling Tampa Bay bullpen made it interesting.
With the victory, the Rays (25-24) avoided a three-game sweep and pulled back to within five games of the first-place Yankees (30-19).
Cobb (6-2) came three outs away from a complete-game shutout, but he gave up a solo homer to Brett Gardner to lead off the ninth, and was pulled with one on and one out after 113 pitches, matching a season-high longest outing. Cobb was charged with two runs on five hits, striking out eight.
It would take two relievers to get the final two outs, as lefty Cesar Ramos struggled, giving up two walks and a two-run double before getting replaced by Joel Peralta, who struck out two while stranding two on base.
The Rays had broken the game open against New York ace lefty CC Sabathia with a three-run sixth, thanks to an RBI triple by Yunel Escobar and two-run homer by first baseman James Loney. Sabathia (4-4), who allowed a season-high seven runs and seven hits over seven innings, is winless in his last five starts.
Cobb, whose start was pushed up a day to face the Yankees, was brilliant, retiring 18 of the first 19 he faced. The Yankees got their first hit in the third in controversial fashion, with Jayson Nix reaching on an infield single on a close play at first. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano added a no-doubt single to center to start the seventh, and Ichiro Suzuki hit a triple in the eighth when his sinking liner got under the glove of a diving Rays' center fielder Desmond Jennings.
Cobb, who also threw 8 1/3 shutout innings against the Yankees on April 24 at the Trop, gave up hits to two of the first three hitters he faced in the ninth before exiting, receiving a standing ovation.
In the second, Tampa Bay loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield.
Sean Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and moved to second when a throw on an attempted force play by Yankees third baseman David Adams was high and wide. James Loney reached on another fielder's choice to load the bases, and catcher Jose Lobaton hit a bases-loaded bloop single to score a run. Sam Fuld added a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Cobb, one of the team's most consistent starters this season, looked sharp, with perfect innings in four of the first five.
The Rays added two more runs in the third, thanks to a two-run homer by Rodriguez.
NOTES: Struggling Rays RHP Fernando Rodney, who blew his fifth save Saturday, said his confidence is still strong and it's "too early" to consider removing him from the cloesr's role. ... Before Sunday's game, the Yankees added LHP David Huff, claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians, to the roster and designated OF Ben Francisco for assignment.