NEW YORK (AP) - The Boston Red Sox keep doing their part to put Tampa Bay in the playoffs. The Rays just can't get past the New York Yankees.
First, they gave up three runs in the eighth inning and lost a doubleheader opener 4-2 on Robinson Cano's two-run double.
Then, they gave up two runs in the eighth inning and lost the nightcap 4-2 on pinch-hitter Jorge Posada's bases-loaded single.
``We definitely still have a chance,' Jeremy Hellickson said. ``We have to start winning, but we're definitely still in it.'
Following Wednesday's wipeout at Yankee Stadium, the Rays are 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race. The Los Angeles Angels also are 2 1/2 back.
Tampa Bay had its chances. In losing the first three games of the four-game series in the Bronx, the Rays went 1 for 20 with runners in scoring position.
``We're not playing terrible baseball,' Matt Joyce said. ``We understand what we have to do. Right now, our backs are against the wall, so we're going to see what the team is made of.'
Matt Moore, a 22-year-old who made his big league debut Sept. 14, will pitch Thursday in place of Jeff Niemann, who felt a little stiff and was pushed back to Saturday against Toronto. Bartolo Colon starts for the Yankees, who clinched a playoff berth by winning the opener and the AL East by winning the nightcap.
``I'm looking forward to it,' Moore said. ``The mound is 60 feet, 6 inches away, and as long as I can stay within myself, I'll be all right out there.'
In the quiet of the clubhouse, Joyce brought out some laughter by propping a dripping Popsicle inside a mini gold glove, given by teammates for making big defensive plays - his was Sunday in Boston.
Manager Joe Maddon was his usual upbeat self.
``Pitched great again and did a lot of things well,' he said. ``We've just got to get the offense to step up. We win tomorrow, we cane go home I guess down two. Not an impossible task.'
In the opener, Alex Rodriguez hit an RBI double in the first, but that was all the Yankees got off Jeff Shields (15-12) until the eighth. Desmond Jennings put the Rays ahead 2-1 with a two-run homer in the second inning off emergency starter Hector Noesi.
Eduardo Nunez then hooked an 82 mph changeup into the first row of the left-field seats leading off the eighth. Brett Gardner singled with one out, Derek Jeter walked, and that was it for Shields.
J.P. Howell relieved and fell behind 3-1, and Cano lined an opposite-field drive into the gap in left-center. In the dugout, Shields briefly put a towel over his head, unable to watch.
In the night game, CC Sabathia failed in his bid to reach 20 wins for the second time in his career. Wasting a 2-0 lead, he allowed solo homers to No. 9 hitter Kelly Shoppach in the fifth and Sean Rodriguez in the seventh, the latter clanking high off the left-field foul pole. That offset Cano's second-inning homer off Hellickson, who allowed two hits in seven innings, and a run-scoring, double-play grounder by Jesus Montero in the fourth.
Tampa Bay had a chance when Jennings singled with one out in the eighth, B.J. Upton singled on a liner off Sabathia's glove and Evan Longoria, down 0-2 in the count, worked out an eight-pitch walk.
David Robertson (4-0) relieved, and Ben Zobrist grounded into a 4-6-3 double play on his first pitch. After returning from the birth of a child, Zobrist had struck out in his first four at_bats of the twinbill.
``I do think he was ready,' Maddon said. ``Talking to him, he was very eager to get back in there. Of course, it's an emotional moment, baby being born, but I also thought, my goodness, what better time to give the baby a real birthday present.'
In the bottom half, pinch-hitter Nick Swisher doubled off Jake McGee (3-2) with one out, and Curtis Granderson flied out. Juan Cruz came in and walked Mark Teixeira on four pitches, and Cesar Ramos fell behind Cano 3-1 before walking him intentionally to load the bases for Posada.
After Casey Kotchman's two-out single in the ninth off Rafael Soriano, Joyce struck out on a checked swing, then followed plate umpire Brian Knight toward third as he argued. He may have bumped the ump.
``I didn't feel I went,' Joyce said. ``It's a big situation and emotions are high and we're at a point where we've got to come through.'
NOTES: The Rays are 0-5-2 in doubleheaders against the Yankees. ... Jennings has hit seven of his 10 homers on the road.
The Associated Press News Service
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