ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -James Shields picked a nice time to deliver his best performance of the season.
The Tampa Bay right-hander worked into the eighth inning Sunday to outpitch CC Sabathia, prolong Alex Rodriguez's quest for his 600th homer and help the Rays beat the New York Yankees 3-0.
``It was one of my better games, no doubt about it,' Shields said after allowing four hits, walking one and striking out 11 over 7 1-3 innings. ``To finally put it together feels pretty good.'
Carl Crawford and Kelly Shoppach drove in runs for the Rays, who took two of three games during a matchup between the teams with the top two records in baseball.
The Yankees intended for Rodriguez to take a day off. But with Shields (10-9) sailing along with a three-run lead in the seventh, manager Joe Girardi inserted the slugger as a pinch-hitter with a runner on and two outs.
Much of the sellout crowd of 36,973 stood throughout the at-bat - Yankee faithful rooting for history, Rays supporters cheering on Shields - as Rodriguez took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch. He remained in the game at third base, but didn't get to the plate again.
``I knew they had that card in their back pocket. I didn't know if they were going to play it,' Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ``They played it right there and it was a pretty cool moment, especially since we came out on top of it.'
Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada had consecutive singles for the Yankees in the second. Lance Berkman singled with one out in the sixth and Derek Jeter chased Shields with a single in the eighth.
Chad Qualls, acquired Saturday from Arizona, got Berkman to hit into a double play to end the eighth. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth, finishing the five-hitter and picking up his 30th save in 32 opportunities.
Sabathia (13-5) allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings, losing his second consecutive start after winning nine straight decisions.
``I got myself in a lot of trouble, so I was just trying to keep it where it was at,' said Sabathia, who escaped jams in the fourth and fifth, stranding runners at second and third each time. ``My fastball command hasn't been good since the All-Star break.'
Tampa Bay won for the eighth time in nine games, trimming New York's lead in the AL East to one game.
Girardi made the decision to rest Rodriguez, who went 0 for 8 in the series and is 9 for 38 (.237) with eight RBIs in 10 games since hitting No. 599. The manager explained A-Rod had played 13 straight days and he wants to keep his players healthy and as fresh as possible for the stretch run.
``We didn't score any runs, that's why we lost the game,' Girardi said. ``That's the bottom line.'
The Yankees lineup had a different look, with trade deadline acquisitions Berkman and Austin Kearns making their first starts as position players. Right-hander Kerry Wood also made his first appearance for New York in relief of Sabathia.
Berkman, who made his Yankees debut as the designated hitter on Saturday, filled in at first base for Mark Teixeira, who remained in the lineup as the DH. Kearns started in left field in place of Brett Gardner, going 0 for 2 in the No. 8 hole before Rodriguez pinch hit for him.
``It was an interesting moment. I knew he was going to come into the game at some point and pinch hit,' Shields said. ``I made some really good pitches that he fouled off. ... He got it to 3-2, and I spotted my fastball on the inside corner.'
With Carlos Pena out after leaving Saturday night's game because of a sore right foot and Ben Zobrist sidelined for the fourth straight day by stiffness in his lower back, Tampa Bay essentially played two men short.
The only hitters available off the bench were Matt Joyce and John Jaso, but the Rays didn't need their bats.
Shoppach drove in Tampa Bay's first run with a soft liner that glanced off the outstretched glove of a backpedaling Berkman, who wound up falling to the ground on his back. Crawford's infield single made it 2-0 in the third, and a second run scored in the inning when Evan Longoria grounded into a double play.
The Rays took a 6-5 edge in the season series, with seven games remaining between the division rivals.
``It's two good teams,' Girardi said. ``It's going to go down to the wire.'
NOTES: Rays pitching prospect Jeremy Hellickson, who leads the International League with 12 wins, will be recalled from Triple-A Durham to make his major league debut Monday against the Twins. ... Wood, acquired from Cleveland on Saturday, arrived at Tropicana Field several hours before game time. ``Obviously excited,' he said. ``Definitely glad to be here.' ... New York LHP Andy Pettitte (strained left groin) threw 25 pitches half way up a bullpen mound and could have a full mound session Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Crawford is a triple shy of joining Ty Cobb as the only players in the modern era to reach 400 steals and 100 triples before age 29. Crawford got his 400th career stolen base on Saturday.
The Associated Press News Service
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