Minutes after his club dropped its three-game series against the first-place Yankees, losing the rubber match 6-2 Wednesday night, Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted there's little difference between the teams.
"I think that the two teams are really closely matched," he said. "I would just like to see us play them with our offense being a little more productive. I thought we pitched well outside of the first game an 11-4 loss. We just have to generate more offense."
If the Rays (55-47) are going to make up their 7 1/2-game deficit in the American League East - or, for that matter, their four-game deficit to the Red Sox in the wild-card standings - they'll surely need more offense than the three hits they managed against Joba Chamberlain over eight innings.
Chamberlain (7-2) was masterful in holding the Rays to a pair of singles by Jason Bartlett and an infield single by Carl Crawford. The Rays didn't get a runner past second against him.
For the game, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Pat Burrell, Gabe Gross and Dioner Navarro were a combined 0-for-16.
"I think this was his best performance," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Chamberlain. "It was an important game for us against a very tough hitting ballclub. He shut down a tough club. He was outstanding."
Matt Garza (7-8) kept the Rays in the game, as he generally does. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and three walks. His biggest mistake was a slider over the plate in the sixth that Robinson Cano crushed for a solo home run.
The Rays didn't score until the ninth, after Brian Bruney replaced Chamberlain. Crawford led off the inning with his fifth triple, and Longoria, who came to the plate 1-for-10 in the series, hit his 21st home run.
A one-out double by Carlos Pena chased Bruney, but Mariano Rivera struck out Burrell, walked Gross and fanned Michel Hernandez.
Burrell struck out three times and flew out to right and was booed with increasing volume.
"Pat had started to show signs of coming on, and then he struggled a bit during this series; no question about that," Maddon said. "And even Carlos Pena is struggling quite a bit. I just want to continue to work with both of them.
"I still believe Burrell is going to put up some really significant numbers for us the last two months of the year.
The game didn't lack a little consternation. After Chamberlain threw a pitch over Longoria in the fourth, Garza threw an inside pitch that hit Yankees' No. 3 hitter Mark Teixeira in the top of the fifth.
Longoria said he didn't know whether Chamberlain threw the pitch intentionally, but Garza left little doubt about whether he sent a message in return.
"Yes and no," he said. "They could take whatever they want from it but I just kind of got tired of people brushing them back. It's about time someone made a statement. They did it on Monday night and we didn't do anything.
"They didn't do it too much yesterday, and he did it again tonight. So I hate to be that guy, but someone had to take a stand and say we're tired of it."
The Yankees scored in the first when Derek Jeter tripled on a ball to right that Gross didn't appear to play well and scored on a Teixeira single to right through a shift.
Garza worked out of a jam in the third after Jeter reached on a bunt single to give the Yankees runners at first and second with one out. But in the fourth, Cano's ground-out RBI gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
The Rays' bullpen allowed three runs, including home runs by Melky Cabrera and Teixeira in the ninth off Dan Wheeler.
"We've got to keep digging," Garza said. "It was a big series. We took a game, but we climbed in a deeper hole. But I've been on teams that have come out of bigger holes than this and took the division. So we've got a grind ahead of us, and we've got two months to do it."