Opportunistic Rays trip up Yanks with late rally

Opportunistic Rays trip up Yanks with late rally

Opportunistic Rays trip up Yanks with late rally
ST. PETERSBURG -- Finally, the shoe found the other foot for the Rays on Monday night.

After struggling all weekend to do anything right against the Tigers, the Rays got to see the opposition have to wear a mistake. That came in the form of an error by four-time Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman MarkTeixeira that proved to be the difference in a 4-3 Rays win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field with 21,742 watching.

The Rays moved to 42-38 with the win and pulled within 6 1/2 games of the first-place Yankees in the American League East standings while remaining unbeaten at home against New York this season at 4-0.

Trailing, 3-2, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Rays sprung to life when pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad doubled off Dave Robertson to drive home Sean Rodriguez and tie the score at 3. Elliot Johnson then ripped a ball to Teixeira, who couldn't make the play, allowing Conrad to score the go-ahead run and Johnson to reach third.

"What it looked like to me, I thought it was going to hit the base, and I think he thought the same exact thing," Johnson said. "Obviously, the man's won some Gold Gloves, so his not [making the play] shows that it was a pretty challenging play. But you expect him to make it, and I thought it was going to hit the base and kick."

Teixeira had no excuses.

"I really don't know [what happened]," Teixeira said. "Usually, you can say, 'I charged it when I should've laid back' or 'I laid back when I should've charged it.' I just missed it. I don't know what happened. The ball obviously didn't do what I expected it to do."

The fielding woes were not exclusive to the Yankees. The Rays dealt with their own issues early in the game, even though what clearly were miscues were classified as hits.

Matt Moore started for the Rays and felt the brunt of those plays. The manner in which he negotiated the first two innings, allowing just two runs, could be classified as a feat just short of heroic.

Derek Jeter opened the game with a double to center and moved to third on Curtis Granderson's groundout. Teixeira then hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Hideki Matsui appeared to be camped under the ball before lunging to his right at the last moment, missing the ball as it fell to the artificial turf for a double.

Jeter scored on the play and Teixeira later scored on a single by Robinson Cano. Nick Swisher then grounded into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.

Moore retired the first two batters he faced in the second before Chris Stewart hit a ball to third that was ruled a single. Whether the ruling was correct or not, it was the kind of play the Rays used to make routinely. The rookie left-hander recovered from the mistake by striking out Jeter to end the inning.

"I really like the way [Moore] handles it when we do mess up," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He does all the right things when adversity strikes. He does not show up his fielders. He does not in any way become negative toward anybody. I really think when you do that as a pitcher, your team wants to play with you a little more. Your defense wants to play for you a little more. I really like the way he does that."

Moore said that putting a tough inning behind him is just part of his job.

"I think once the situation is done ... I'm walking off the mound, and there's not a whole lot you can complain about," Moore said. "I mean, it's over with no matter what I say, no matter what I think, no matter how bad I think that inning could have got. It's irrelevant. I think I was just trying to move on."

Fortunately for the Rays, Moore hung tough and eventually the offense got him some help in the form of solo home runs by B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena, the latter of which tied the score at 2 in the sixth.

Moore didn't help himself in the seventh, when he issued a leadoff walk to Chris Stewart, then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Stewart to move to second. The Yankees' backup catcher advanced to third on Jeter's flyout to right, then scored on Granderson's sacrifice fly to center field.

But the Rays answered with two in the bottom half of the inning, which allowed Maddon to use his bullpen the way he wanted.

Joel Peralta needed just 10 pitches to retire the Yankees in order in the eighth. Fernando Rodney then retired the Yankees in order in the ninth -- facing three left-handed pinch-hitters -- to preserve the win while earning his 23rd save of the season.

Moore got the win and is now 5-5 on the season, thanks to his 4-0 record and 3.29 ERA since the start of June.

"That was a big win," Conrad said. "I don't think we played badly the last series; we just got outplayed. We know we are a better team than that, so coming out here tonight and getting that first win of this series was big."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.