Rays vs. Yankees: Homers And Triple Play Key Tampa Bay's 5-3 Win

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Catcher Kelly Shoppach #10 and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth #43 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their team's victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 5-3 to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox for the American League Wild Card, with just one day left on the schedule.

The Rays jumped to an early lead. Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the second inning with a single into right center. Ben Zobrist followed by depositing a down-and-in fastball from Bartolo Colón just over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.

But just moments later, Rookie of the Year candidate Jeremy Hellickson got touched by Russell Martin for a solo homer that cut the Rays' lead in half, and Hellickson followed up that batting-practice fastball by walking Brett Gardner on four pitches, and eventually escaped a bases-loaded jam by retiring Mark Teixeira on a fly to deep right.

The score was still 2-1 in the fifth when Hellickson got into another jam, and this time he couldn't completely escape. Gardner led off with a base hit, and moved to third on Eduardo Nuñez's single to right. Curtis Granderson grounded into a double play, but Gardner scored the tying run.

In the sixth, yet another jam. After Alex Rodriguez led off with his second walk of the game, Teixeira drove a double into the right-field corner, Rodriguez stopping at third. That got Jake McGee working in the bullpen, but too late as Nick Swisher drove a fastball off the center-field wall for an RBI double. Jorge Posada was walked intentionally to load the bases, but Hellickson -- after a visit from pitching coach Kevin Hickey -- remained in the game.

Which worked out really, really, really well when Russ Martin grounded Hellickson's first pitch right toward third base, where Evan Longoria collected the baseball and started the third triple play in Rays history. Still, the Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead and things were getting late.

Not too late, though. In the bottom of the seventh, ex-Rays closer Rafael Soriano took the mound for the Yankees.

B.J. Upton walked, and stole second.

Longoria walked.

All-Star Matt Joyce -- another big and surprising reason for the Rays' success this season -- drove Soriano's second pitch, a 93-mile-an-hour fastball, over the right-field fence to give his club a 5-3 lead.

And that's how it ended. McGee pitched a scoreless seventh for the Rays, Brandon Gomes a perfect eighth, and ex-Yankee Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th (and most important) save of the season.

Wednesday, Tampa Bay's David Price will take the mound against the Yankees' powerful lineup, and be opposed by a host of New York relief pitchers -- none of whom are good enough to make the postseason roster -- as Joe Girardi prepares his club for Friday's Division Series opener. Which means the Rays figure to be big favorites.

Game notes: All of the Yankees' regulars started, with the exception of Derek Jeter. Instead, Nuñez batted leadoff and played shortstop, and he went 2 for 4. With his second-inning single, Johnny Damon collected his 2,722nd hit, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig for 57th on the all-time list. Roughly 22,000 fans saw Damon's hit, as the Rays' attendance was absolutely embarrassing for the second night in a row.

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