|Yankees face Rays looking to bolster wild card lead|
On a night the longshot dream of the Tampa Bay Rays came to an end, the New York Yankees made as much news off the field than they did during the game.
The Yankees used eight different pitchers in a 4-1 victory that eliminated the Rays from postseason contention. But it was other Yankees developments that made the real headlines.
First of all, New York, with manager Aaron Boone continuing to deflect all questions regarding his wild card game starter, pushed Luis Severino back to Tuesday night's second game of the series, going with a complete Rays-type bullpen game Monday.
The win, the Yankees' 96th of the season, kept the Yankees 1 1/2 games ahead of the winning Oakland A's for home field in the wild card game. The Yankees own the tiebreaker with Oakland by virtue of a better divisional record.
Then, Didi Gregorius, who might have been lost for the season with torn cartilage in his right wrist, reported improvement and vowed he will play again this season.
"I feel way better," said Gregorius, who was given a cortisone injection Sunday. "It's a big improvement from yesterday to today. I'm feeling stronger. I'll get some exercises in and wait to see what's going to happen. ... I said the same thing yesterday; I said I'll be ready to go before the season ends."
Said Boone: "He felt significantly better obviously with some of the range of motion things he's able to do. I would also temper it. The true indicator will come Wednesday when he's re-evaluated, and we see how he does."
During the game, Aaron Hicks, who fouled a ball off his foot Saturday before getting the hit that led to Gregorius' injury diving into home plate, left with left hamstring tightness. "Hopefully it's nothing serious," said Boone, who added Hicks will have a precautionary MRI Tuesday.
Brett Gardner, who replaced Hicks in centerfield, drove in the go-ahead run and then made a spectacular catch to keep his team ahead.
The Yankees, winning for only the second time in seven games at the Trop this season (10-18 over their last 28 there), went with the bullpen game to give their starters an extra day of rest, but Boone said nothing should be read into anything when it comes to the wild card game.
"I think a lot of people have read too much into how Happ is set up right now," Boone said. "Happ is very much in the picture as a possibility for us and one of those good choices ... but how it lines up right now isn't by design or anything."
The Rays will go with reliever Jake Faria to at least start Tuesday night's game, not as an "opener" but expected to give way to Jalen Beeks at some point.
Tampa Bay came out of nowhere to make a bit of a late run at the A's but just ran out of time.
Tampa manager Kevin Cash, asked about the Yankees' parade of relievers (two hits, 13 strikeouts), said, "I don't think it's fair for them to call it a bullpen day. It's more like a closer day because they all just kind of come in there and they've all got ... closing? It's wipeout stuff from the second that (Chad) Green steps on the mound and out, they're very special."
Zach Britton pitched the ninth for the save and is showing real signs of returning to his dominating days as an Orioles.
Kevin Kiermaier was out of the Tampa lineup with a shoulder injury and catcher Nick Ciuffo left with a bruised hand.
Severino is 7-2 with a 3.06 ERA lifetime against the Rays, 2-1 with a 3.43 in St. Petersburg. He is 2-1 against Tampa Bay this season but was strafed by the Rays in July.
Mallex Smith is 3-for-10 (.300) against Severino, but both Jesus Sucre and Joey Wendle are 1-for-9 (.111) and Kiermaier is 3-for-23 (.130).