The Rays were nine games behind Boston back on September 2, but thanks to an epic collapse by the Red Sox now find themselves tied with them atop the American League wild card standings with one to go. Tampa kept pace on Tuesday, as Matt Joyce's three-run blast proved to be the difference in a 5-3 win.
"That was probably one of the most exciting times you could have on the baseball field," Joyce said.
After pulling even Monday, Tampa Bay made the most of its opportunity Tuesday.
It was a 2-2 game entering the top of the sixth, when Alex Rodriguez led off with a walk and went to third on Mark Teixeira's double, setting the stage for a potentially big rally.
Nick Swisher then hit a long fly ball to center, but both runners held because it hung in the air. By the time the ball bounced in at the base of the fence, only Rodriguez could score. Still, the play left runners on second and third, and an intentional walk to Jorge Posada loaded the bases.
Russell Martin followed by hitting a grounder tight to the line toward third base. Evan Longoria grabbed it as he stepped on the bag, fired to Zobrist for the second out, and Zobrist's relay to Sean Rodriguez was in time to beat Martin, who slid in head-first, to complete the play and got the Rays out of the jam.
The limited damage kept Tampa Bay in the game, and Joyce delivered the big blow an inning later.
Rafael Soriano (2-3) began the inning and walked B.J. Upton, who stole second before Longoria walked.
"It was the walks that killed him tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But if you're going to have it, get it out of the way tonight. That's for sure."
Now the Rays turn to their ace in left-hander David Price, who won 19 games a year ago, but is just 12-13 this season with a 3.35 ERA. Price is also winless in his last five starts and lost to Toronto his last time out, allowing five runs (two earned) and five hits in six innings.
Price beat the Yankees the last time he faced them and is 4-2 in 12 games (11 starts) against them with a 3.67 ERA.
New York, meanwhile, will go with right-handed rookie Dellin Betances, who will make his first big league start. Betances pitched in relief last week against the Rays and walked four batters in jut two-thirds of an inning, while allowing two runs without a hit.
The Yankees are 9-8 against the Rays this season.