ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays have developed a knack for comeback wins.
Ji-Man Choi’s game-ending home run in the 12th inning that helped Tampa Bay remain on track for an AL wild card berth. The Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Tuesday on a night CC Sabathia pitched a perfect inning in his first regular-season relief appearance.
“Walk-offs are always so much fun,” said the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier, who also homered.
Choi homered off Cory Gearrin (1-3) after Pete Fairbanks (2-3) struck out Brett Gardner with a runner on second and two outs in the top half.
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling,” Choi said through a translator.
Tampa Bay remained a half-game ahead of Cleveland for the second AL wild card, and the Rays closed within a half-game of Oakland for the top wild card.
“That’s September baseball,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Especially with their depth, they can be really aggressive with creating matchup advantages early and often in the game. It made it for some tough sledding for the offense today.”
Tampa Bay has trailed in 14 of its last 15 games, going 10-5 over the stretch.
“Everyone in here knows that is at stake right now,” Rays reliever Chaz Roe said.
Tampa Bay has won a club-record eight straight extra-inning games.
“I’ll remember this season regardless of what happens the rest of my life,” Kiermaier said.
AL East champion New York (102-56) slipped as it tries to overtake Houston (103-54) for best record in the AL and homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
Sabathia, a 39-year-old left-hander who is retiring at the end of the season, had made 560 regular season starts but is being moved to the bullpen along with J.A. Happ ahead of the postseason.
Sabathia struck out Travis d’Arnaud, induced a groundout from Choi and retired Matt Duffy on a called third strike. Sabathia’s only prior big league relief appearance was in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, when he allowed one earned run over 1 1/3 innings against Detroit.
He received a standing ovation as he walked toward the dugout after the inning from a large group of Yankees’ fans among the announced crowd of 16,699.
“Good that he was able to walk in from the bullpen, which is unique for him,” Boone said. “So good first step. Hopefully he bounces back well from it.”
Cameron Maybin homered in the third off Yonny Chirinos, New York’s 299th homer this season. It made the Yankees the first team in major league history to have 14 players with 10 or more home runs in the same season.
Kiermaier tied the score in the fifth with a home run against Stephen Tarpley, the fourth of 11 Yankees pitchers.
Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery gave up three hits and struck out three over two scoreless innings in his second appearance and first start since returning from Tommy John surgery.
New York third baseman Gio Urshela was hit by a Diego Castillo pitch in the sixth and left an inning later with a bruised left hand. X-rays were negative and Boone didn’t rule him out for Wednesday’s game.
Yankees 2B Gleyber Torres had his eighth-inning pop-fly hit off an overhanging catwalk at Tropicana Field and land in front of second base where shortstop Willy Adames fielded the ball and threw to second baseman Mike Brosseau to force out DJ LeMahieu.
Tuesday’s turnout was an improvement from Monday night’s finale of a four-game series with Boston that drew 8,779. … Kiermaier had one hit in 28 at-bats before his homer.
Yankees: Torres (lower leg weakness) returned after missing two games and went 0 for 5. … C Gary Sánchez (strained left groin) and Edwin Encarnación (strained left oblique) are both expected back during the regular-season ending series this weekend at Texas.
Happ (12-8) will follow RHP Jonathan Loaisiga (2-1) on Wednesday night. RHP Charlie Morton (15-6) starts for the Rays.
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