Rays come back to defeat Yanks 8-7, and clinch the AL Wildcard
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And here is the game recap from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
ST. PETERSBURG — The aroma of spilled bubbly wafted to the third-base side of Tropicana Field, and though the Yankees had nothing to celebrate, there was an appreciation that something magical had taken place.
An unforgettable conclusion to a memorable regular season went into the history books as Evan Longoria lifted the Rays to the American League Wild Card, homering off Scott Proctor in the 12th inning on Wednesday to cap a wild 8-7 victory.
“I really can’t believe it,” said the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira. “I think fans should be excited. That was probably one of the best days in baseball’s history. Every game tonight, all across baseball, seemed like it mattered. And there were some great finishes.”
Tampa Bay faced a seven-run deficit in the eighth inning before putting up six runs against Boone Logan and Luis Ayala, then were down to their final strike when Dan Johnson clanged a solo homer off the right-field foul pole, while facing Cory Wade, to tie the game.
Having already hit a key three-run homer in the eighth, Longoria tucked the game-winner just over the left-field wall as Proctor tried to complete his third inning of relief, dooming the Red Sox to elimination just eight minutes after they were stunned, 4-3, by the Orioles in Baltimore.
“It’s just a bunch of guys who have put together an incredible season,” Longoria said. “Now, we don’t have to be talking about how good it was or how good it could have been to make the playoffs.”
The Yankees used 11 pitchers to span the 11 1/3 innings of work they completed, but with an eye toward the American League Division Series, manager Joe Girardi said that having only one off-day between game No. 162 and the playoffs would force him to rest his relievers.
Thus, even if the Red Sox were looking for help from the Yankees, Girardi’s best bullpen arms — namely, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera — were going to join the crowd of 29,518 as observers.
“I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two [innings to play] and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”
Until the eighth inning, the game had all the markings of a rout, as Teixeira homered twice, including a grand slam. Teixeira said that his right-handed stroke feels especially strong, and he showcased it with two mighty swings off David Price.
Teixeira connected for his 38th and 39th home runs, including a slam to left-center in the second, temporarily taking the wind out of the Rays’ improbable September comeback.
“When we’re out there, we’re trying to win,” Teixeira said. “I’m trying to hit homers, we’re trying to make the plays in the field, and whoever’s out there is trying to win the game.”
Price served up a solo blast to Teixeira in the fourth inning, as well as a first-inning unearned run, in a four-inning start. Andruw Jones added a solo blast off Juan Cruz in the fifth that opened up the seemingly formidable seven-run lead.
“It seems like just when you’ve seen it all,” Derek Jeter said. “You’ve got a team that was down seven runs in the eighth inning, Boston was winning, and then everything changed. It was very bizarre.”
Girardi wanted to use the regular season’s final game as a rolling bullpen exercise, waiting until Wednesday afternoon to name 23-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances as the starter.
Betances wobbled in the first inning, forcing Aaron Laffey to get up at one point, but the touted prospect righted himself and completed two innings in his first Major League start (second appearance).
That outing kicked off a succession of relievers getting work — some to prepare for the playoffs.
Phil Hughes pitched a scoreless fifth around a walk, with a strikeout, making his second relief appearance in three games, and A.J. Burnett — a reliever for the postseason, Girardi announced — came out of the bullpen to retire one batter in the seventh.
The plan was working fine until, with the Rays down to their final strike, Johnson ripped a Wade changeup off the right-field pole, tying the game and sending the crowd into delirium.
“It’s crazy just to see this going on,” Betances said. “Obviously I love New York, I’m a fan and now being here, I’m kind of happy to see Boston go out.”
Tampa Bay sent 10 men to the plate in the six-run frame. Logan permitted all three batters he faced to reach, and Ayala walked Sam Fuld to force in a run, then clipped Sean Rodriguez with a pitch.
After Desmond Jennings whiffed, B.J. Upton lifted a sacrifice fly and Longoria delivered the big blow, a three-run homer to left field, his 30th.
“Give them a lot of credit,” Teixeira said. “Down seven runs, going into the eighth inning, with their season on the line? You give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”
The Rays splashed and laughed and screamed, a well-earned release after an epic comeback to beat all comebacks. Now the Yankees must wonder: What lies ahead in their postseason story? They will host the Tigers on Friday at 8:37 p.m. ET in the Bronx in Game 1 of their Division Series.
“That’s why baseball is the greatest game,” Alex Rodriguez said. “We’re all baseball fans. The emotion of today was something you can’t dream up when you make up the schedule.”