ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Baltimore isn’t the only team barreling in on the sputtering New York Yankees in the AL East. Tampa Bay is closing fast, too.
James Shields pitched eight strong innings to outlast CC Sabathia and light-hitting Chris Gimenez drove in two runs Monday as the Rays beat the Yankees 4-3, further tightening the division and fueling Tampa Bay’s bid to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
The Yankees, who led by 10 games earlier this summer, had their edge cut to one game by Baltimore, which beat Toronto 4-0. The Rays moved within 21Ž2 games of New York.
"This is the start of September, and this is where you want to be," Shields said. "In spring training, we always want to be in the playoff hunt, and now here we are again."
Shields (13-8) and the Rays ruined the return of Alex Rodriguez. The slugger went 1 for 4 with a strikeout in his first game after being sidelined six weeks with a broken left hand.
Gimenez snapped a 3-all tie in the eighth with a two-out grounder that just made it to the outfield for a single off David Robertson (1-5).
Gimenez, recalled from the minors on Saturday and batting just .203 when the day began, also had a RBI single off Sabathia in the second.
"I would say that is probably one of the funnest things that’s happened. It was fun just to be up in that situation. It was a confidence booster, righty on the mound -- being who
"Just getting a chance to go up there, hey, what’s the worst that can happen? I get out? OK, I’ve done that before in my life," Gimenez added. "I told myself before I got in the box that this is definitely the biggest at-bat of your life, so you might as well do something fun."
Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for Tampa Bay, striking out Rodriguez and earning his 41st save by fanning pinch hitter Curtis Granderson with the tying run on third base. Granderson had been out since leaving Saturday’s game with tendinitis in his right hamstring.