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Rolling Rays end Yankees' playoff hopes

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- While the mood inside the Tampa Bay clubhouse was businesslike after the Rays moved closer to making the playoffs, the mood inside the New York Yankees' locker room was one of sadness.

The Yankees were officially eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday night.

Evan Longoria and David DeJesus homered on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning, and the Rays extended their winning streak to six games with an 8-3 victory at Yankee Stadium.

The Rays (89-69) won for the 11th time in 14 games and remained one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians (88-70) for the first American League wild-card spot. The Texas Rangers (87-71) trail Tampa Bay by two games and Cleveland by one game.

"The guys have stepped up at this particular time, and the runs the past couple of games have been great to get," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.

Particularly great for the Rays was the return of power of Longoria's power. Longoria, who homered twice Wednesday, has nine home runs against the Yankees this season, but he came into his sixth-inning at-bat with just one home run in his previous 29 games.

"It felt good to win, regardless," Longoria said. "I really don't care about how we do it. I just care about winning, and being able to help today and do what I did feels a little bit better, but we've been playing good baseball, and to be able to eliminate a team like the Yankees who have been there all year and have played great baseball and have played us tough, it's a good thing."

In the sixth, Longoria drove a 1-2 fastball from reliever David Huff well over the left field fence, increasing the Rays' 3-2 lead to 6-2. One pitch later, DeJesus knocked a fastball over the right-center-field fence for a 7-2 lead.

The Rays hit back-to-back home runs for the seventh time this season, helping David Price, who allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings while retiring the last 10 hitters of a 108-pitch outing.

Longoria added a second home run in the ninth for the final margin. It was his 13th career multi-homer game and his second this season, both coming at Yankee Stadium.

Price (9-8) struck out eight without issuing a walk and won for the first time since beating the Yankees on Aug. 25 in Tampa Bay.

"We control our own destiny, so every game is big," Price said.

At that time of Price's last victory, the Yankees were 3 1/2 games out of the second wild card, and they were within one game as recently as two weeks ago after winning three of four in Baltimore. The next night, they lost the first of three games in Boston, and they never recovered, leading to their second non-postseason campaign since 1993.

"It's a really sad feeling," New York second baseman Robinson Cano said.

The Yankees were done in by an extremely high amount of injuries, which forced them to suit up a franchise-record 56 players, but nobody was prepared to use that as an excuse for missing the playoffs.

"I don't think that way," closer Mariano Rivera said. "We have to do our best. I think we did our best the whole year."

New York manager Joe Girardi said, "I don't care who the guys are in that room. When you put that uniform on, you're a big league player, and I believe you have a chance to make the postseason, and when you don't make it, it's disappointing."

Elimination officially came for the Yankees when they had the bases loaded in the eighth inning following a walk by pinch hitter Lyle Overbay against Brandon Gomes. As New York's final run scored, the Indians closed out a 7-2 victory over the White Sox.

"Today was probably a reality check for me," Girardi said. "I knew it was going to be difficult, but I believed we were going to get there."

The Yankees needed a win and a loss by Cleveland to stay alive, but they never led Wednesday. New York fell behind for good in the third when DeJesus hit an RBI single and Matt Joyce followed with a sacrifice fly.

Those runs were charged to Phil Hughes, who may have made his final start for the Yankees. Formerly New York's top pitching prospect, Hughes (4-14) finished with a 5.19 ERA after allowing three runs and seven hits in two-plus innings. He was pulled after 51 pitches, four batters into the fifth.

Eduardo Nunez scored two runs for the Yankees. Nunez scored on Robinson Cano's double in the first and hit a solo home run in the third.

NOTES: The Yankees announced that in the wake of the delay with the Mariano Rivera bobbleheads arriving to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, anyone with tickets for the game could redeem them for free seats to a game next season. ... New York held a brief pregame ceremony honoring retiring LHP Andy Pettitte. There was a video tribute, and Pettitte was presented with a base from Sunday's start signed by SS Derek Jeter and Rivera. ... Tampa Bay played without SS Yunel Escobar (ankle) and C Jose Lobaton (elbow), who are considered day-to-day. OF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) did not start, but he hit a single in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter. ... DH Travis Hafner was activated off the disabled list after missing nearly two months with a right shoulder injury. The Yankees placed LHP CC Sabathia on the 60-day DL, two days after announcing he has a Grade 2 left hamstring strain.
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