ST. PETERSBURG — As shocking as the Rays' 11th-inning walkoff victory was Monday night, the end of Tuesday's game was actually more stunning: Carl Crawford thrown out trying to get to third base.
There was a running debate in both clubhouses after the game on whether Crawford should even have been on the move, an interesting subplot to another thrilling game, an 8-7, 10-inning win by the Yankees that put them back atop the American League East over the Rays by a half-game.
Jorge Posada, one of their four core veterans, made the difference, hitting a pinch-hit homer off Dan Wheeler to open the 10th that landed on the roof of the Batter's Eye restaurant, and the Rays, who had roared back from a 6-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead in the fifth, couldn't recover, before 28,713 at the Trop.
"To lose that game is pretty tough after we came back," Wheeler said. "It's really tough."
The Yankees (88-57) snapped a season-high four-game losing streak with what they considered one of their biggest victories of the season.
"A great win," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees' winning rally in the 10th actually started at the end of the previous inning, when centerfielder Curtis Granderson made a spectacular, running, diving, fully extended catch in right-centerfield to rob Ben Zobrist of at least a double.
But even more remarkable was how it was sealed, with rookie and relatively unknown rightfielder Greg Golson throwing out Crawford at third as he was trying to tag up on Matt Joyce's flyout against Mariano Rivera.
"I always make it on that play, that's why I went," Crawford said. "He made a good play, I probably should have been more aware, from what I heard he has a great arm. So I probably should have been more careful right there with the game on the line, but that's the way we play, so I just tried it."
Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted Crawford made the right move — even though with his speed, he is likely to score just as easily from second on any hit — citing the additional opportunities from being on third (or even scoring on the actual play if the throw hit Crawford) as well as the difficulties of the Rays getting another hit off Rivera.
"I always tell our guys to take positive risks," Maddon said. "When you're facing Rivera you do take chances because he does not give up many hits. So I was fine with the play."
The Yankees, thrilled with the outcome, were surprised Crawford took the chance.
"I couldn't believe he was running, to tell you the truth; get the third out there at third base," Posada said. "Because he would have scored on a base hit. It doesn't matter, he's that quick, he doesn't need to get to third base to score, really."
Golson, a former Phillies prospect who played most of the 2006-07 seasons in Clearwater, was surprised as well.
"I didn't think he was going to be going," he said. "It's not one of those things you expect is going to happen. He's one of the fastest guys in the league. I was trying to put a good throw on the bag."
The Rays didn't know much about Golson — Evan Longoria saying they didn't have much of a scouting report — and didn't expect what Maddon called an "absolutely perfect" play.
"When you get thrown out it's easy to say you shouldn't have went," Crawford said. "That's just the way we play. I do that all the time and I'm safe, and the one time, he got me. I can't take nothing away from him, he got me."
Down 6-0 after another poor effort by Matt Garza, who didn't get out of the fifth for the second straight start, the Rays rallied with a season-high-matching seven runs in the fifth. Slumping Carlos Peña got them started with a solo homer, and Willy Aybar, after another right decision by Maddon, delivered a pinch-hit three-run homer.
As much as the Rays lauded the tenacity of their comeback, it made the ending harder to take.
"We played hard the whole game and came back and we had chance to win at the end and we didn't," Crawford said. "Just one of those things where we made a mistake at the end and lost."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].