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N.Y. Yankees (97-65)140110000000791
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Rays clinch wild card with amazing comeback

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Down by nine games in early September, down by seven runs on the final day of the season.

And yet somehow, these Tampa Bay Rays made it to the playoffs.

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Evan Longoria capped a startling comeback by hitting his second home run of the game, hooking a drive barely inside the left-field foul pole in the 12th inning Wednesday night and giving the Rays the AL wild-card spot with an 8-7 victory against the New York Yankees.

Pinch-hitter Dan Johnson saved the Rays with a two-out, two-strike solo home runs i the ninth that made it 7-7.

Longoria connected shortly after midnight, four minutes after Boston blew a ninth-inning lead and lost at Baltimore 4-3. The Red Sox, who seemed to be running away from the Rays a few weeks ago, and Tampa Bay began the day tied for the final AL playoff spot.

"It's a good feeling knowing that one put us into the playoffs and not into a playoff game," Longoria said. "So I'm just thinking about, 'Wow, did this just really happen?' ... Man, when I saw it clear the fence it didn't seem real."

The crowd of 29,518 at Tropicana Field was mostly silent as the Rays trailed 7-0 going into the eighth. But Longoria's three-run homer finished a six-run burst in the eighth and Johnson, hitting only .108, tied it with a shot off Cory Wade.

The fans roared when the Red Sox loss was posted on the scorecard. Moments later, they erupted again when Longoria connected.

"It's a storybook finish," designated hitter Johnny Damon said. "Definitely gratifying."

Boston led by nine games on Sept. 4. If the Red Sox had held on to win, the teams would have met in a one-game playoff at Tropicana Field on Thursday.

Instead, the Rays will open the first round of the AL playoffs on Friday at Texas.

"It was a crazy night," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What happened out there goes beyond the imagination."

"I want to say this: The Yankees are true champions," he said. "They played us great. They made us work for every inch of it."

Longoria connected off Scott Proctor (0-3) to end it. Proctor was the Yankees' 11th pitcher of the game -- they did not use all-time career saves leader Mariano Rivera.

The AL East champion Yankees pulled their regulars throughout the game and finished with a lineup that looked more like a Triple-A team.

"The emotion of the day was something you can't dream up when you look at the schedule," Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said. "Longoria had a magical night. They're very dangerous because they have good pitching."

Moments before Tampa Bay won, it looked as if Boston would instead be going to the playoffs.

The Orioles were down to their last strike in the ninth before scoring twice off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Rays, meanwhile, escaped a first-and-third, no-out jam in the 12th. Longoria made the key play, fielding a grounder at third and making a snap tag to catch the runner diving back to the base.

"Weird. Just when you think you've see it all," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "It's one of those days. You have a team down seven runs in the eighth and Boston winning. It was very bizarre."

Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam off All-Star David Price and a solo homer as the Yankees built their big lead. The Rays sputtered against a parade of New York pitchers, until the eighth. Longoria connected off Luis Ayala to pull Tampa Bay within a run.

Teixeira's second-inning slam put the Yankees ahead 5-0. His solo shot made it 6-0 and came simultaneously as Dustin Pedroia went deep for Boston to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead in their game. The Rays began cutting into their deficit during a rain delay in Baltimore.

A night after Matt Joyce's three-run homer gave Tampa Bay a 5-3 victory that kept the wild-card race tied, the crowd didn't have much to cheer until the eighth when the Rays loaded the bases with no outs against Boone Logan.

Ayala replaced Logan and walked pinch hitter Sam Fuld to force in one run, then hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch to force in another. B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 7-3 before Longoria connected.

Before the eighth, the Rays were limited to two hits -- a pair of singles by Casey Kotchman -- by a continuous stream of Yankees pitchers, beginning with a two-inning stint by rookie Dellin Betances.

George Kontos, Aaron Laffey, Phil Hughes, Raul Valdes, A.J. Burnett, Andrew Brackman, Logan, Ayala, Wade and Proctor followed Betances, who made his first major league start.

The crowd lingered long after the game ended and celebrated by players, who returned from the clubhouse to spray fans behind the dugout and along the railings with champagne.

"That was one of the best days in baseball's history, probably," Teixeira said. "I really can't believe it. I think the fans should be excited."

Notes

  • Rodriguez, scratched because of a sore right knee, saw his major league-record stretch of 13 consecutive seasons of 30 home runs and 100 RBI end. He had 16 home runs and drove in 62 runs in 99 games this year.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman and other team officials held a second day of organizational meetings in preparation for the playoffs.
  • Manager Joe Girardi said RH Freddy Garcia will start Game 3 of the ALDS behind LHP CC Sabathia and RHP Ivan Nova.
  • The Rays were the only team in the AL that did not score 10 or more runs in a home game this season. The last time that happened was 1976, when the Angels and Orioles didn't do it.
 
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Evan Longoria stomps on home plate before Tampa Bay's jubilant players and fans after his clinching walk-off home run.  (US Presswire)
Evan Longoria stomps on home plate before Tampa Bay's jubilant players and fans after his clinching walk-off home run. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

E. Longoria
AB 5
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 4
New York

M. Teixeira
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 5
 
New York Yankees
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Derek Jeter, SS3100110 .297
    Ramiro Pena, 2B2000020 .100
Curtis Granderson, CF3110013 .262
   a- Greg Golson, PH-CF^LF3010000 .182
Mark Teixeira, 1B4225001 .248
    Eric Chavez, 3B2010010 .263
Robinson Cano, DH4000000 .302
   b- Jorge Posada, PH-DH2000010 .235
Nick Swisher, RF3010100 .260
    Chris Dickerson, RF1000112 .260
Andruw Jones, LF4111013 .247
    Brett Gardner, CF1000102 .259
Jesus Montero, C4000011 .328
    Austin Romine, C1000012 .158
Eduardo Nunez, 2B-SS4110110 .265
Brandon Laird, 3B-1B5110002 .190
Totals46796511  
a-fouled out for Granderson in the 6th
b-struck out for Cano in the 10th
Batting
2B - Nick Swisher (30, Price), Eduardo Nunez (18, Price)
HR - Mark Teixeira 2 (39, Price, Price), Andruw Jones (13, Cruz)
RBI - Mark Teixeira 5 (111), Andruw Jones (33)
2-OUT RBI - Mark Teixeira 5 (37)
SB - Curtis Granderson (25, 2nd base off Price/Shoppach), Chris Dickerson (4, 2nd base off Farnsworth/Lobaton), Eduardo Nunez (22, 2nd base off Price/Shoppach)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
E - Eduardo Nunez (20, Misplayed grounder)
New York Yankees
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Dellin Betances 2100220 6.75
George Kontos 0.2000100 3.00
Aaron Laffey 1.1000010 3.88
Phil Hughes 1000110 5.79
Raul Valdes 1100110 3.00
A.J. Burnett 0.1000000 5.15
Andrew Brackman 0.1000100 0.00
Boone Logan 0.1233010 3.46
Luis Ayala 1233111 2.09
Cory Wade (BS,1) 0.2111001 2.04
Scott Proctor (L,2-6) 2.2311231 7.14
HBP - Damon (by Aaron Laffey), Kotchman (by Boone Logan), S. Rodriguez (by Luis Ayala)
Pitches-Strikes - Dellin Betances 44-23, George Kontos 14-5, Aaron Laffey 16-8, Phil Hughes 20-14, Raul Valdes 22-13, A.J. Burnett 5-3, Andrew Brackman 13-6, Boone Logan 12-6, Luis Ayala 24-13, Cory Wade 14-9, Scott Proctor 56-35
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dellin Betances 1-3, George Kontos 1-1, Aaron Laffey 1-2, Phil Hughes 1-1, A.J. Burnett 1-0, Andrew Brackman 2-0, Cory Wade 1-1, Scott Proctor 2-3
Batters Faced - Dellin Betances 9, George Kontos 3, Aaron Laffey 5, Phil Hughes 4, Raul Valdes 5, A.J. Burnett 1, Andrew Brackman 3, Boone Logan 4, Luis Ayala 7, Cory Wade 3, Scott Proctor 13
Tampa Bay Rays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Desmond Jennings, LF6000117 .259
B.J. Upton, CF4001212 .243
Evan Longoria, 3B5224213 .244
Matt Joyce, RF3000023 .277
   a- Russ Canzler, PH1000012 .333
    Justin Ruggiano, RF0000000 .248
   b- John Jaso, PH1010000 .224
    Elliot Johnson, PR0000000 .194
    Jose Lobaton, C1000011 .118
Johnny Damon, DH4110124 .261
Ben Zobrist, 2B5110112 .269
Casey Kotchman, 1B5120001 .306
Kelly Shoppach, C3000004 .176
   c- Sam Fuld, PH-RF0101100 .240
   d- Dan Johnson, PH1111000 .119
    Brandon Guyer, RF1010000 .195
Reid Brignac, SS1000001 .193
   e- Sean Rodriguez, PH-SS3111102 .223
Totals448108910  
a-struck out for Joyce in the 7th
b-singled for Ruggiano in the 8th
c-walked for Shoppach in the 8th
d-homered for Fuld in the 9th
e-walked for Brignac in the 5th
Batting
2B - Ben Zobrist (46, Logan)
HR - Evan Longoria 2 (31, Ayala, Proctor), Dan Johnson (2, Wade)
SF - B.J. Upton (3)
RBI - B.J. Upton (81), Evan Longoria 4 (99), Sam Fuld (27), Dan Johnson (4), Sean Rodriguez (36)
2-OUT RBI - Evan Longoria 3 (44), Dan Johnson (1)
SB - Desmond Jennings (20, 2nd base off Kontos/Montero), B.J. Upton (36, 2nd base off Betances/Montero), Elliot Johnson (6, 2nd base off Ayala/Romine)
Team LOB - 15
Fielding
E - Ben Zobrist (6, Misplayed grounder)
Tampa Bay Rays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
David Price 4665332 3.49
Juan Cruz 1.2111011 3.88
Cesar Ramos 1000000 3.92
Dane De La Rosa 1.1000010 9.82
Joel Peralta 1000010 2.93
Kyle Farnsworth 1000230 2.18
Brandon Gomes 1100010 2.92
Jake McGee (W,5-2) 1100010 4.50
IBB - Nunez by David Price, Gardner by Kyle Farnsworth
Pitches-Strikes - David Price 97-55, Juan Cruz 24-15, Cesar Ramos 17-11, Dane De La Rosa 17-10, Joel Peralta 14-9, Kyle Farnsworth 19-10, Brandon Gomes 20-15, Jake McGee 14-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 4-6, Juan Cruz 1-3, Cesar Ramos 1-2, Dane De La Rosa 2-1, Jake McGee 2-0
Batters Faced - David Price 22, Juan Cruz 6, Cesar Ramos 3, Dane De La Rosa 4, Joel Peralta 3, Kyle Farnsworth 5, Brandon Gomes 4, Jake McGee 4
Game Information
Attendance - 29518
Game Time - 4:54
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Sam Holbrook, Second Base - Paul Schrieber, Third Base - Chad Fairchild