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Rays edge Yankees to open key September series

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:53 AM

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ST. PETERSBURG -

New York pitcher David Robertson already had thrown over to first base twice, and Tampa Bay's Ryan Roberts was guessing there wouldn't be a third throw. So Roberts began to lean toward second and waited for the first move in Robertson's delivery and was off and running.

"I just ended up guessing right," Roberts said of his two-out steal of second base in the eighth inning Monday, the one that put him in scoring position and allowed him to race home with the Rays' winning run when Chris Gimenez singled through the right side of the Yankees infield.

The Rays opened an important three-game series against the Yankees with a 4-3 win in front of a Labor Day matinee crowd of 28,585 at Tropicana Field.

The win moved the Rays to within 21/2 games of the first-place Yankees, losers of four of their past five and nine of their past 13, and 21/2 games behind the wild card-leading A's. They remained 11/2 games behind the Orioles, who hold the second wild-card spot.

"That's great," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "One game at a time."

James Shields pitched eight innings for his 13th win and Fernando Rodney pitched around a throwing error by third baseman Elliot Johnson in the ninth that enabled the Yankees to put the tying run on third base to record his 41{+s}{+t} save.

Gimenez drove in a pair of runs with two singles. B.J. Upton tied Carlos Peña for the team lead in homers with his 17th of the season.

"This is September," Shields said. "This is where we want to be."

And the Rays inched closer to first place by using the stolen base to score the game's final two runs.

"Joe always says don't be afraid to run," Upton said. "That's a big part of the way we do things around here. You can't be scared to get thrown out. Any time you can try to advance, try to advance. It's got to be the right situation."

Upton and Ben Zobrist executed a double-steal in the fifth inning. That allowed Upton to score on Evan Longoria's grounder to short and tie the score at 3. It also prevented Longoria from hitting into what could have been a rally-killing double play.

The stolen base was the big play in the ninth, though it took the Rays two tries to get the go-ahead run on second.

Rich Thompson, pinch-running for Jeff Keppinger, was called out on a steal attempt by second base umpire Bob Davidson. Thompson was called up this month to provide the Rays with a speed option off the bench in the late innings. The Yankees were expecting him to run and pitched out, which enabled catcher Russell Martin to get the ball to second base.

Maddon argued the call and was ejected, though he said afterward that Davidson made the right call.

"At that point I did," Maddon said when asked if was hoping to get tossed. "Gosh we've lost so many close games, what is it going to take to have us win a close, one-run game?"

It was going to take another stolen base.

Roberts reached with a two-out single and immediately looked to get to second base.

"You definitely keep running," Roberts said. "You got to get somebody on second base because what happened can happen."

With Roberts in scoring position, Gimenez knew he only had to get the ball out of the infield somehow.

"I was thinking base hit right here, you don't have to do anything special," he said. "I need to get a pitch that I could handle, not that I handled it all that well, but I got just enough of it."

Gimenez bounced the ball past the reach of second baseman Robinson Cano and had the first game-winning hit of his big-league career.

"You see the ball cuing and spinning and you're praying to God as you run to first, 'Please, God, just let it get through.' And once it passed Cano I knew Ryan was going to score, and I was like, 'Oh, thank God,' " Gimenez said. "Great feeling."


rmooney@tampatrib.com


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Twitter: RMooneyTrib

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