Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays rout Yankees to hang on to wild-card lead

NEW YORK — Their All-Star starter walked six, threw three wild pitches and pitched his way out of the game after five innings. Their potential Gold Glove shortstop left with a twisted ankle. And their more productive catcher had to come out due to a swollen elbow.

Otherwise, Tuesday actually worked out pretty well for the Rays.

"Absolutely," Matt Moore said. "It turned out to be a great day."

Despite Moore's wildness, Yunel Escobar's sore left ankle and Jose Lobaton's bruised right elbow, the Rays had reason to celebrate, beating the Yankees 7-0 to remain atop the American League wild-card race and reduce their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to four.

With five games left, the Rays (88-69) stayed one ahead of (and hold the tiebreaker over) the Indians, who won on a Jason Giambi homer after blowing a ninth-inning lead to the White Sox, and two ahead of the Rangers, who beat the Astros.

"I think really everyone in the clubhouse expects to win, I think we have good momentum, we have a really good positive attitude, we have some confidence," Matt Joyce said. "With all those things combined, it makes for a good team, it makes for a team that's really dangerous, it makes for a team that's able to win a lot of ballgames. It's a good position for us to be in right now."

Joyce got them off to a good start with a leadoff homer that led to a three-run first, but Moore made it more interesting than it needed to be during those first five innings, unable to establish any command of his fastball and becoming too aggressive and thus wild, throwing 107 pitches.

"I was happy with the way the innings ended up playing out," Moore said. "I was not happy with the positions I had to pitch in."

The six walks tied Moore's career high, the third time he did so this season, the product of throwing 43 balls and going to eight 3-and-2 counts. The three wild pitches were a career most for a game and gave him a major-league high-matching 17 for the season.

Manager Joe Maddon was close to pulling Moore several times in the early innings — which would have kept him from his 16th win — but gave him more time since he was encouraged that he had allowed only one hit over the first four innings, and three total.

"There's a lot of bend but not break with him," Maddon said. "He's kind of like a prevent defense."

Escobar was hurt on a seemingly acrobatic play in the fourth as he made a nice snag of a low throw on a force play at second then a leap but was still slid into by Chris Stewart. "Caused his ankle to kind of like twist a little; I can't even say turned," Maddon said. "He's not awful, but I'm not sure about (tonight). We'll know when he wakes up."

Lobaton's swollen right elbow — the result, Maddon said, of being "ball-peened" by errant pitches all night — shouldn't keep him out.

Joyce was moved into the leadoff spot despite a 3-for-41 September in another of those Maddon moves, so naturally he responded by knocking the third pitch of the game over the rightfield fence. It was his first home run in more than a month, since Aug. 23 and also off Hiroki Kuroda actually, and his second RBI since Aug. 30. The Rays quickly turned it into a 3-0 lead as Wil Myers singled, David DeJesus doubled him in and Evan Longoria followed with a sac fly. The Rays added two in the sixth and two more in the ninth as they won their fifth straight.

As Joyce was talking about his homer, Delmon Young leaned in and said, "He set the tone." Joyce laughed and said he was happy to help.

"It was huge," he said. "The position that we're in, it's really crunch time."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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