Rays beat Yankees to reduce lead in AL East

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Things are getting seriously tight in the American League East standings after the Rays beat the Yankees 4-3 on Monday to shrink New York's lead to one game over Baltimore and 2 1/2 over Tampa Bay.

The Yankees led the division by 10 games back on July 18.

Rays right-hander James Shields stuck round just long enough -- 124 pitches through eight innings -- to improve to 13-8, allowing five hits, four in the Yankees' three-run fourth inning.

"A warrior," Rays manager Joe Maddon called Shields, who had to survive the eighth with the score tied 3-3.

Derek Jeter led off the eighth with a walk but Nick Swisher grounded into a double play.

"Everything shifted at that point (with Robinson Cano coming up) because if Cano gets on, I like Shields once again on A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) if it had occurred," Maddon said.

Rodriguez, who was in the lineup for the first time since breaking his hand on July 24, never got the chance. Cano lined out.

"His fastball has really come up over the last several weeks," Maddon said. "He threw a good curveball to Cano there at the end. I thought he had plenty left in the tank. That's why I (left him in so long)."

That gave Rays third-string catcher and September call-up Chris Gimenez a chance to be the hero in the bottom of the eighth. He drove in the winning run, singling just past second baseman Cano's outstretched glove after Ryan Roberts singled off David Roberston with two outs and stole second.

"We have chances to score runs one through nine (in the batting order)," Maddon said, "It's kind of a nice feeling."

The Yankees hit Shields hard in the fourth. Cano led off with a double into the right field corner and took third when Rodriguez's broken-bat grounder dribbled past Shields.

Eric Chavez's fly to left scored Cano, and Raul Ibanez tripled past a diving Ben Francisco in right to tie it 2-2. Shields took a Russell Martin liner off his foot and failed to cover first after the ricochet, allowing Ibanez to score for a 3-2 lead.

CC Sabathia went seven innings for the Yankees, allowing eight hits and the Rays' first three runs.

"He did OK," manager Joe Girardi said.

Sabathia has won three of 17 starts against Tampa Bay since signing with New York following the 2008 season. Before that he was 7-1 against the Rays.

"He escaped some jams and minimized the damage," Girardi said. "Obviously you'd like to shut them down, but it's not always going to happen."

Sabathia broke a couple of Rays bats in the second inning when they scored their first run. Jeff Keppinger's cracked-bat single drifted to left-center, Francisco hit a routine single to left, and one out later Gimenez's broken-bat looper to right-center sent Keppinger home.

B.J. Upton made it 2-0 in a hurry in the third, sending Sabathia's 3-1 pitch far over the left-center field wall for his 17th home run.

After falling behind 3-2, the Rays tied it 3-3 in the fifth when Upton and Ben Zobrist singled and pulled a double steal. Evan Longoria followed with a sharp grounder to shortstop Jeter. It appeared Jeter had a play at the plate but took the safer out at first as Upton scored.

"It's frustrating," Sabathia said, "not being able to hold the lead today. I just have to be better than I was."

NOTES: The Yankees had gone 18-18 during Rodriguez's absence. ... The Rays have won 10 of their past 11 home games against the Yankees. ... Shields worked himself into and out of a second-inning jam, walking the bases loaded before striking out Ichiro Suzuki, and didn't allow a hit until Cano's double in the fourth. ... Keppinger singled to open the Rays' eighth but pinched-runner Rich Thompson was thrown out trying to steal second. Maddon was ejected after arguing the call.
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