Homers help Rays stall Yankees' playoff chase

Homers help Rays stall Yankees' playoff chase

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' run at an American League postseason spot stalled on Sunday, at least for a day. Tampa Bay homered three times to snap New York's seven-game win streak with a 4-2 victory in the Bronx in front of 33,087 at Yankee Stadium.

Corey Dickerson opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second, and Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller added solo shots in the sixth off Luis Cessa, who suffered his first Major League loss.

The Yankees are now two games back of an AL Wild Card spot, tied with the Tigers and trailing the Blue Jays and the Orioles, who have both AL spots with identical records. New York trails Boston by four games in the AL East.

Girardi on loss to Rays

"A good bounce-back win for the guys today. There were a lot of people frustrated yesterday and it was nice to see them come back," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Cessa is no walk in the park. The guy's got very good stuff. ... But it's good to get those big home runs."

"Overall I would say it was a good start," said Cessa, who has allowed 13 homers in 47 2/3 innings. "But a couple pitches here and there made a big difference in the game."

The runs were enough for Rays starter Matt Andriese, who scattered six hits over five innings, wiggling out of jams in the first and fifth to record his seventh win. The lone run he allowed came courtesy of Chase Headley's solo homer in the fifth.

Forsythe's solo shot

From there, three Rays relievers -- highlighted by the season debut of former Yankee Chase Whitley -- held the Yankees largely in check the rest of the way. Whitley tossed two innings in his return from Tommy John surgery for a Rays team that could play a significant spoiler role in the season's final weeks. Twelve of Tampa Bay's final 19 games come against division opponents, all fighting for postseason spots in a jam-packed AL East.

Whitley escapes trouble

"Seeing Whitley get out there, that made the day," said Forsythe, who homered to start a two-run sixth. "He busted his butt to get back here."

"I love the way our guys are competing," Headley said. "We're getting contributions from everybody. And of course, it would have been great to keep [the streak] going. We just have to start a new one tomorrow."

It was a day to commemorate 15 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi and reliever Dellin Betances laid a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial in Monument Park. An American flag was sprawled across the outfield for a pregame ceremony that included FDNY firefighter Frank Pizzaro's rendition of the national anthem.

FDNY firefighter sings anthem

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
LoMo ... Oh, no!: Logan Morrison had to come out of the game during his fourth-inning at-bat after straining his left wrist fouling off a 2-2 pitch from Luis Cessa. He may not be able to recover in time to return this season. In 19 games since returning from a right forearm strain, Morrison is batting .283 with four homers and 12 RBIs. Mikie Mahtook replaced him to finish the at-bat and hit the next pitch for an inning-ending groundout.

"I just felt it pop on that swing," Morrison said. "More than likely I am done for the season."

Morrison leaves with injury

Headley hammers one: The best Yankees at-bats of the day came from Headley, who grinded out an impressive, if fruitless, 10-pitch at-bat in the second against Andriese. In the fifth, Headley launched an 0-2 pitch into the right-field stands for his 14th homer, his highest season total since hitting 31 for the Padres in 2012.

Chase is on: Whitley made his first big league appearance in 486 days and allowed one unearned run. Whitley was pitching for the Yankees on May 14, 2015, when he had to come out of a game at Tropicana Field with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery five days later. The Rays claimed him after the season, and he could compete for a spot in the 2017 rotation.

"We're happy for him," Girardi said. "We've talked to him as he came back into town. It was a long road for him. We're all happy for him. I wish he would had given up a few runs today, but the rest of the way, I hope he does well."

Whitley strikes out Sanchez

Comeback falls short: The Yankees scratched out a run off Whitley in the seventh, when Brett Gardner's RBI single followed a walk and a fielding error. They threatened for more when Gardner, representing the tying run, stole second with Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate. But Ellsbury skied the second pitch he saw harmlessly to left, ending the threat.

"We had a couple chances," Girardi said. "but we didn't have many."

Gardner's RBI single

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Newly converted Yankees reliever Luis Severino looked to be facing his first bit of adversity since being transitioned to the bullpen when he loaded the bases in the seventh. But Severino escaped that jam, then tossed another scoreless inning. He's yet to allow an earned run as a reliever this season, over 16 2/3 innings.

Severino escapes a jam

QUOTABLE
"This makes us compete harder. The games feel like they are worth more when each day you play a team that could possibly make the playoffs. Playing competitive teams is what we're going to have to do next year, so why not compete right now?" -- Dickerson, on playing AL East rivals down the stretch.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: Righty Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.86 ERA) tries to rebound from the only blip in a tremendous second half when he starts the 7:07 p.m. ET opener of a three-game series Monday in Toronto. In his last start, Odorizzi allowed seven runs in four innings as Baltimore snapped his six-game winning streak, but he still has a 2.80 ERA since the All-Star break, sixth best among AL starters.

Yankees: The Yankees will continue their chase of an American League postseason spot when they host the Dodgers for the first time since 2013. Bryan Mitchell (1-0, 0.00), who threw five shutout innings in his season debut last week, looks for his second Major League win in the 7:05 p.m. ET opener of a three-game set on Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York and covered the Yankees on Sunday.

Roger Rubin is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York and covered the Rays on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.