NEW YORK -- The Rays enjoyed their temporary home at Citi Field on Tuesday night, even if most of the fans were rooting against them.
And even though most of those fans were hoping the Yankees would take another step toward the postseason, the Rays turned the energy in their favor in a 2-1 win. Five Rays pitchers combined on a three-hitter, and Adeiny Hechavarria hit a tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning, ruining Sonny Gray's best start as a Yankee and giving the Rays what they hope will be an important win.
"It's a huge win," said Rays reliever Steve Cishek. "It almost felt like a playoff atmosphere."
The loss dropped the Yankees four games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, but New York still holds a three-game lead over the Twins for the top AL Wild Card spot. The Rays need wins much more desperately; they are four games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card spot (with many other teams also involved).
"Their pitchers did a good job of making sure that we couldn't put runs on the board," said Yankees rookie Clint Frazier. "But what can you do? It's difficult, but [Gray] pitched a heck of a game."
This three-game series was relocated from Tropicana Field because of Hurricane Irma, and Yankees fans took advantage of $25 tickets to support their team. With the upper deck closed, a crowd of 21,024 filled the lower sections of the ballpark and made plenty of noise, almost all of it in favor of the team wearing road grays.
Rays manager Kevin Cash managed the game as a "must win," pulling starter Blake Snell after just five-plus innings and 83 pitches. Cash wanted the right-handed Cishek against the strong right-handed hitters in the middle of the Yankees' batting order, and his strategy worked.
Gray allowed a home run to Kevin Kiermaier on the first pitch he threw, then didn't allow another run until Hechavarria's home run with one out in the eighth. He went the distance for the sixth time in his career, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out nine.
"Any time you lose it's tough to swallow, no matter how it happens," Gray said. "I just hope we can come out tomorrow and win the series. Any time we lose a game, it's not a fun feeling."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No way, says Gray: The Rays had a rally brewing in the fifth inning, as Wilson Ramos stroked a one-out double and moved to third base on Brad Miller's single to left field. Gray didn't buckle, striking out Hechavarria in a five-pitch battle before whiffing Kiermaier on an 84.9-mph slider, pinning the runners aboard.
"You saw him really get nasty there," Cash said.
Just took a day: Hechavarria finished a home run shy of the cycle in Monday's 5-1 loss to the Yankees at Citi Field, flying out to deep right field in his final at-bat. The wait was worth it, as he launched a blast that the Rays needed more in this game. Hechavarria struck out in his first two at-bats against Gray, but connected on the first pitch he saw in the eighth.
"I wanted to hit it hard," Hechavarria said. "I was trying too hard to hit it hard [the first two at-bats]. I was going out of my normal swing. Thank God I just put a hard swing on it [in the eighth]."
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: Left-hander Jaime Garcia (1-2, 4.88 ERA) will return to the rotation on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. ET, having had his previous start skipped. Garcia has not completed six innings in any of his five starts for the Yanks.
Rays: Right-hander Chris Archer (9-9, 4.00 ERA) takes the mound against the Yankees at Citi Field on Wednesday; the Rays will head home to the Tampa Bay area after the game.