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Yankees rally past Rays, clinch playoff berth

CBSSports.com wire reports
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NEW YORK -- As the final out fell into Curtis Granderson's glove, the Yankees walked calmly to the mound to congratulate Mariano Rivera.

No leaping. No screaming. No bubbly.

Just handshakes.

Playoff berths have become so commonplace in the Bronx -- 16 in 17 years -- they're no longer cause for celebration.

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"We still feel as though we didn't accomplish anything yet," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said after New York rallied past Tampa Bay 4-2 Wednesday and handed the Rays a damaging defeat in the opener of a day-night doubleheader. "I mean, we're happy to be in the playoffs, but people aren't running around here jumping up and down because we clinched a postseason berth. Our goal is to win the division."

Eduardo Nunez hit a tying home run in the eighth inning against All-Star James Shields, and Robinson Cano followed with a two-run double off J.P. Howell to clinch the Yankees' spot.

Despite using a makeshift lineup, New York clinched no worse than a wild-card berth and lowered the magic number to two for its 12th AL East title in 16 seasons.

"It's not time to celebrate just yet," Nick Swisher said, explaining the Yankees' reserved approach. "It's crazy, though. I'm sure a lot of other teams would not be doing that."

Five World Series titles and seven American League pennants since 1996 for Jeter, Rivera and Jorge Posada have numbed the Yankees and their fans to preliminary achievements.

"It's the first step of three that you want, to me, to accomplish in the regular season. First one is to get in. Second one is to win your division, and the third one is to have homefield advantage throughout," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Since I've been here, I know that there's been an expectation for this club to win every year, and that starts from the top. That started from Mr. Steinbrenner, and it hasn't changed one bit."

With rain forecast for the evening, the Yankees' CC Sabathia (19-8) was to make his third try for his 20th win. Rookie Jeremy Hellickson (13-10) was to start for the Rays, who led 2-1 in the eighth only to be stunned by the quick turnabout. Tampa Bay began the day trailing Boston by two games for the AL wild-card spot; the Red Sox hosted Baltimore at night.

"It's not good, but we have another game to play in a couple minutes, so you can't really worry about it too long," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Alex Rodriguez hit an RBI double in the first, but that was all the Yankees got off Shields (15-12) until the eighth. Desmond Jennings put the Rays ahead 2-1 with a two-run homer in the second inning off emergency starter Hector Noesi.

Nunez then hooked an 82 mph pitch into the first row of the left-field seats leading off the eighth. Brett Gardner singled with one out, Jeter walked, and that was it for Shields.

Left-hander J.P. Howell relieved and fell behind 3-1, and Cano lined an opposite-field drive into the gap in left-center. In the dugout, Shields briefly put a towel over his head, unable to watch.

"Right now, it's crucial times, and we've got to win ballgames," Shields said. "I didn't get the job done."

Ominously, Yankees scheduled starter Phil Hughes was scratched and spent the afternoon getting his bad back examined by a doctor, putting his postseason availability in doubt.

Given his first big league Noesi allowed two runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings. The uniform numbers of the Yankees' opening battery totaled 135 -- Noesi (64) and rookie catcher Austin Romine (71).

Luis Ayala (2-2), the seventh of eight Yankees pitchers, relieved with two on and two outs in the eighth and struck out his only two batters. Two days after setting the career saves record, Rivera was given a standing ovation when he entered. He closed it out 1-2-3 for his 44th save this season and the 603rd of his career, two more than Trevor Hoffman's old mark.

Rivera appreciated this playoff berth as much as the first one. He said players felt the Yankees were overlooked when predictions were made during spring training.

"Nobody gave us a shot," Rivera said. "Here we are."

In the quiet clubhouse, there wasn't even a sign or a sound of a party going on in the inner sanctum back by the showers, where only the team is allowed.

Jeter, as usual, found a practical reason for not getting too worked up.

"We're going to spray champagne and then play the second game?" he said.

Notes

  • No team had clinched a playoff berth in a doubleheader opener since the 1999 Red Sox, who chose to wait until after the nightcap to celebrate.
  • Swisher let go of the bat while swinging at strike three in the first inning, and the bat hit the side of Posada, who was standing 20 feet toward home plate from the on-deck circle. Posada, making his ninth appearance this year at first base, stayed in the game.
  • Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Russell Martin were given the afternoon off from New York's starting lineup in the opener; Jeter, Rodriguez and Swisher didn't start the nightcap.
  • The Yankees are a big league-best 42-12 in day games.
  • Rivera has converted 60 of 61 save chances against the Rays.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Alex Rodriguez (13) and Robinson Cano (24) celebrate after clinching a playoff berth. (AP)
Alex Rodriguez (13) and Robinson Cano (24) celebrate after clinching a playoff berth. (AP)

Players of the Game
New York

E. Nunez
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
Tampa Bay

D. Jennings
AB 5
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
 
Tampa Bay Rays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Desmond Jennings, LF5112010 .287
B.J. Upton, CF5020010 .235
Evan Longoria, 3B5010002 .243
Matt Joyce, RF3020001 .279
Johnny Damon, DH3000124 .259
Casey Kotchman, 1B3010010 .307
Jose Lobaton, C3010112 .100
Elliot Johnson, 2B2110001 .194
   a- Sean Rodriguez, PH-2B1000011 .222
   b- Ben Zobrist, PH-2B1000012 .267
Reid Brignac, SS4000025 .187
Totals35292210  
a-struck out for Johnson in the 6th
b-struck out for S. Rodriguez in the 8th
Batting
2B - Casey Kotchman (24, Laffey), Elliot Johnson (7, Noesi)
HR - Desmond Jennings (10, Noesi)
RBI - Desmond Jennings 2 (25)
SB - B.J. Upton (31, 2nd base off Laffey/Romine)
Team LOB - 10
Fielding
DP - Longoria
Tampa Bay Rays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
James Shields (L,15-12) 7.1644271 2.84
J.P. Howell0100000 6.37
Brandon Gomes 0.2000010 3.24
Pitches-Strikes - James Shields 120-74, J.P. Howell 5-2, Brandon Gomes 4-4
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - James Shields 5-9, Brandon Gomes 1-0
Batters Faced - James Shields 29, J.P. Howell 1, Brandon Gomes 2
New York Yankees
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Brett Gardner, CF-LF4110010 .262
Derek Jeter, SS3220100 .298
Robinson Cano, DH-2B4012012 .304
Alex Rodriguez, 3B4011021 .281
Nick Swisher, RF-1B4000012 .259
Jorge Posada, 1B2000110 .236
    Chris Dickerson, PR-RF0000000 .333
Andruw Jones, LF2000000 .240
   a- Curtis Granderson, PH-CF1000001 .270
Eduardo Nunez, 2B3121000 .266
    Mark Teixeira, 1B0000000 .247
Austin Romine, C2000011 .111
   b- Eric Chavez, PH1000010 .268
    Russell Martin, C0000000 .238
Totals3047428  
a-popped out for A. Jones in the 7th
b-struck out for Romine in the 8th
Batting
2B - Robinson Cano (46, Howell), Alex Rodriguez (21, Shields)
HR - Eduardo Nunez (5, Shields)
RBI - Robinson Cano 2 (115), Alex Rodriguez (61), Eduardo Nunez (30)
2-OUT RBI - Alex Rodriguez (19)
SB - Brett Gardner (46, 2nd base off Shields/Lobaton), Eduardo Nunez 2 (21, 2nd base off Shields/Lobaton, 3rd base off Shields/Lobaton)
Team LOB - 4
New York Yankees
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Hector Noesi 2.2422121 4.14
Raul Valdes 1.1100130 2.25
George Kontos 0.2100000 3.86
Aaron Laffey 0.2100010 4.10
Cory Wade 1.1100010 1.98
Boone Logan 0.2100000 2.93
Luis Ayala (W,2-2) 0.2000020 1.69
Mariano Rivera (S,44) 1000010 1.95
HBP - Joyce (by Aaron Laffey), Kotchman (by Boone Logan)
Pitches-Strikes - Hector Noesi 55-35, Raul Valdes 30-19, George Kontos 10-7, Aaron Laffey 22-13, Cory Wade 26-20, Boone Logan 11-5, Luis Ayala 11-6, Mariano Rivera 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Hector Noesi 2-3, Cory Wade 1-2, Boone Logan 1-1, Mariano Rivera 1-1
Batters Faced - Hector Noesi 12, Raul Valdes 6, George Kontos 3, Aaron Laffey 4, Cory Wade 5, Boone Logan 4, Luis Ayala 2, Mariano Rivera 3
Game Information
Attendance - 42755
Game Time - 3:20
Temperature - 74
Umpires - Home - Scott Barry, First Base - Wally Bell, Second Base - Field Culbreth, Third Base - John Hirschbeck