The Tampa Bay Rays moved a step closer to a fourth trip to the postseason in six years with a 4-0 road win over the New York Yankees, although their victory was overshadowed by the home crowd's emotional farewell to retiring pinstripes legend Mariano Rivera, who played in his last game in the Bronx.
The 48,675 fans who packed Yankee Stadium Thursday night gave the 43-year-old Panamanian closer a standing ovation when he entered the game in the top of the eighth inning and again an inning later when Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader left the field after retiring all four batters he faced.
A teary-eyed Rivera was embraced by teammates Andy Pettitte, who is also retiring after this season after a storied career with the Yankees, and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, who will likely receive a similar send-off when he retires in the next few years.
Those three players have been with the Yankees since the 1990s and were integral parts of five championship teams.
"It's time to go," Jeter appeared to say to Rivera before he was taken out of the game.
The Yankees, who were eliminated from playoff contention during this week's series against Tampa Bay, finish out their season this weekend against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Manager Joe Girardi has said that during that series he might grant Rivera's wish to play an inning in center field.
In Thursday night's game, Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (11-3) got the win after giving up just three hits over seven innings, while Yankees starter Ivan Nova (9-6) took the loss.
Evan Longoria drove in three runs for the Rays, one in the top of the fourth inning and two more in the top of the eighth. Delmon Young also homered in the top of the seventh inning for Tampa Bay, which continued to lead the race for one of two American League wildcard spots with three games remaining in the regular season.
The Rays lead the Cleveland Indians by one game and the Texas Rangers by two games.
The Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins 6-5 Thursday night at Target Field in Minneapolis, but the Rangers stayed right on their heels with a 6-5 victory at home over the Los Angeles Angels. EFE