Rays eventually find a way, beat Yankees in 10 innings

NEW YORK — The wasted opportunities were mounting for the Rays on Saturday.

In the third inning. In the sixth. In the ninth. And, most notably, in the fifth, with runners on first and second base to start the inning, and on second and third with one out. They had nothing to show for any of it.

“Look, the guys, they’re frustrated,” manager Kevin Cash said. “They realize that we’re getting some guys on base and we’re not taking advantage and finding ways to score. But they’re not quitting, and that’s for sure. They’re doing everything they can to keep it tied on defense and then just wait out that inning. And fortunately for us, we had it.”

The defense and the pitching, from starter Zach Eflin to all four members of the at-times-beleaguered bullpen, kept the Rays in what was a scoreless game.

And in the 10th inning, shortstop Jose Caballero led the way as they broke through for a 2-0 victory over the American League East-leading Yankees.

“It was a really big game for us to win,” Eflin said. “And it gives us an opportunity to win the series (on Sunday).”

Caballero continues to find ways to contribute to wins in key situations.

He already had dropped a key bunt to fuel the fifth-inning threat and made a diving playing on the other side of second base in the eighth.

He then opened the 10th by lacing a double to right-center off lefty reliever Caleb Ferguson, scoring Richie Palacios, who had stepped in for Curtis Mead as the runner placed at second, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead.

As Jose Siri struck out for the major-league co-leading 34th time, Caballero broke for third, swiping the base. Then catcher Ben Rortvedt, the former Yankee, won the left-on-left battle and singled to left, scoring Caballero for a 2-0 lead.

Caballero, acquired from Seattle in January to help cover the Rays at shortstop, said he had a plan, trying to hit the ball to rightfield so that even if he didn’t drive it he would advance the runner. He broke for third on his own, thinking it was worth the gamble for the chance at the extra run.

“It does feel like he dials his game up a little bit when it’s on the line,” Cash said.

Answered Caballero: “I want to win so bad, that’s the moments I want to be in.”

Eflin put the Rays (12-10) in a good spot with his strong start, allowing only three hits and no walks. He struck out six, including Aaron Judge three times after also doing so in their previous meeting. He has held the Yankees slugger to 1-for-12 over his career.

“Just a lot of strikes (49 of 78 pitches), a lot of late movement,” Cash said. “He was really, really sharp. To shut down that team, everybody’s got to play a role. And I felt like everybody on the pitching staff did, but certainly led by ‘Ef.’”

Eflin had help. Colin Poche got three outs, Phil Maton the next three and Jason Adam the biggest three, retiring Juan Soto, Judge and Anthony Rizzo in order in the ninth. Then, with closer Pete Fairbanks sidelined by a stomach bug, Garrett Cleavinger retired the final three batters.

Adam’s work was most impressive, as he got Soto to fly out, struck out Judge and retired Rizzo on a fly to deep right that he first thought was foul then worried it might be a walkoff homer. It was almost a flashback to last May, when Adam allowed a Judge fly ball with two outs in the ninth that would have been a game-tying home run but was caught.

“I thought it was gone but foul, and then I saw it, like, stay fair and I was like, ‘Hmmm,” Adam said. “But it was more shallow than I thought. I didn’t fear it like I feared the Judge one last year. ... I probably got away with one.”

The Rays took the 2-0 lead in the top of the 10th, Cash noting the benefit of adding the second run.

“Huge win. I think it’s awesome,” Adam said. “Our hitters showed up when it mattered most. Eflin. Top to bottom, it’s a really well-played game. Even ‘Cabby’ stealing that base so we get that extra run for insurance was massive. And then Ben with the hit. Top to bottom, everybody did their job.”

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