|Tampa Bay (92-61) «||0||1||1||0||3||0||0||0||x||5||8||0|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are back in first place and one step closer to postseason play.
Tampa Bay reduced its magic number to three to clinch the franchise's second playoff berth and moved into first place in the AL East by a half game after New York lost to Boston.
|More on Rays|
"That's our goal, man. Our goal is to have the best record, our goal is to have the home-field advantage and our goal is to win the World Series," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays hold the tiebreaker if they finish the regular season tied with New York after winning the season series with the Yankees 10-8.
Aybar hit a tiebreaking RBI single and later scored on a passed ball during a three-run fifth as the Rays went ahead 5-2. Ben Zobrist drove in the other run with a bunt single.
Soriano, the fourth Tampa Bay reliever, pitched the ninth to break Roberto Hernandez's franchise save record set in 1999.
"I'm happy with all that's happening this year," Soriano said.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria is scheduled to miss the three-game series because of a left quadriceps strain and will be evaluated on Monday. He underwent an MRI exam that showed no tear.
"I don't see this lingering more than five, six days," Longoria said.
Vargas gave up five runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings.
"They fouled off a lot of pitches, pitches I left up," Vargas said. "When I left it over the plate, they were able to put it in play."
Jeff Niemann (11-7) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings and won for the first time since returning from a strained right shoulder on Aug. 25. The Rays right-hander had been 0-4 with 14.43 ERA over his previous five starts after a 20-game stint on the disabled list.
"Everything fell back into place," Niemann said.
Kelly Shoppach put the Rays ahead 1-0 on a second-inning RBI double. Aybar made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the third.
Seattle tied it at 2 on run-scoring singles by Franklin Gutierrez and Moore during the fourth. Moore pulled Seattle within 5-3 on a sixth-inning RBI that ended Niemann's night.
A pair of Mariners' prospects, Dan Cortes and Anthony Varvaro, both threw one hitless inning out of the bullpen. Cortes struck out one, while Varvaro had two strikeouts and a walk.
"I wasn't as nervous as I expected to be," Varvaro said.
The announced crowd was just 17,840.
|Willy Aybar lines a fifth-inning RBI single off the Mariners' Jason Vargas. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
|Ichiro Suzuki, RF||5||0||2||0||0||0||1||.316|
|Chone Figgins, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||1||2||.258|
|Jose Lopez, DH||4||1||2||0||0||0||1||.237|
|Franklin Gutierrez, CF||4||1||1||1||0||1||2||.248|
|Justin Smoak, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.196|
|Adam Moore, C||4||0||2||2||0||2||1||.186|
|Michael Saunders, LF||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||.202|
|Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||1||2||.175|
|Josh Wilson, SS||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.236|
|a- Matt Mangini, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.200|
|a-popped out for Wilson in the 9th|
|2B - Ichiro Suzuki (29, Balfour), Jose Lopez (28, Niemann)|
|RBI - Franklin Gutierrez (59), Adam Moore 2 (14)|
|2-OUT RBI - Adam Moore 2 (3)|
|SB - Chone Figgins (41, 2nd base off Niemann/Shoppach), Franklin Gutierrez (23, 2nd base off Niemann/Shoppach)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|PB - Adam Moore (7)|
|Jason Vargas (L,9-12)||4.1||6||5||5||4||2||0||3.91|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jason Vargas 97-58, Ryan Rowland-Smith 26-14, Danny Cortes 9-7, Anthony Varvaro 14-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jason Vargas 4-7, Ryan Rowland-Smith 2-1, Danny Cortes 2-0, Anthony Varvaro 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Jason Vargas 23, Ryan Rowland-Smith 8, Danny Cortes 3, Anthony Varvaro 4|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||2||1||0||2||0||0||.237|
|Jason Bartlett, SS||3||1||2||0||2||0||1||.254|
|Carl Crawford, LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.306|
|Willy Aybar, DH||3||1||1||2||0||0||2||.238|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B||4||1||2||1||0||0||1||.248|
|Kelly Shoppach, C||4||0||2||1||0||2||0||.199|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||.200|
|Sean Rodriguez, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||2||4||.254|
|Desmond Jennings, RF||3||0||0||0||0||0||5||.158|
|a- Matt Joyce, PH-RF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.232|
|a-struck out for Jennings in the 8th|
|2B - B.J. Upton (36, Vargas), Jason Bartlett (25, Rowland-Smith), Ben Zobrist (26, Vargas), Kelly Shoppach (8, Vargas)|
|SF - Willy Aybar (4)|
|RBI - Willy Aybar 2 (43), Ben Zobrist (73), Kelly Shoppach (17)|
|SB - B.J. Upton (41, 2nd base off Vargas/Moore), Sean Rodriguez (12, 2nd base off Vargas/Moore)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Bartlett-Zobrist-Pena|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Jeff Niemann (W,11-7)||5.2||7||3||3||1||4||0||4.49|
|Randy Choate (H,18)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||4.46|
|Grant Balfour (H,16)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||2.36|
|Joaquin Benoit (H,25)||1||1||0||0||0||2||0||1.41|
|Rafael Soriano (S,44)||1||0||0||0||1||1||0||1.79|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 79-52, Randy Choate 4-3, Grant Balfour 16-10, Joaquin Benoit 18-12, Rafael Soriano 13-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 6-6, Rafael Soriano 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 24, Randy Choate 1, Grant Balfour 4, Joaquin Benoit 4, Rafael Soriano 4|
|Attendance - 17840|
|Game Time - 2:52|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Brian Gorman, First Base - Ted Barrett, Second Base - Tony Randazzo, Third Base - Paul Nauert|