NEW YORK — The Rays still didn't feel at home hosting the Yankees at the Mets' Citi Field on Tuesday given the roaring crowd, but they had something to feel pretty good about in celebrating a tense 2-1 victory.
An eighth-inning homer by SS Adeiny Hechavarria off Sonny Gray was the difference as both teams scored in the first and didn't do much after.
The win, in front of a boisterous 21,024, improved the Rays to 72-74 and kept them from losing ground in the American League playoff race as they went in four games — and six teams — from the second wild card.
"The crowd was cheering, getting into it, it almost felt like a playoff atmosphere,'' said Rays reliever Steve Cishek, who played a key role.
"We're the home team, it doesn't feel like we're the home team. It really brings some adrenalin when you come into a ballgame like that because those fans are lighting you up pretty good.''
Blake Snell bounced back from his rough outing against Minnesota to give the Rays a strong start, though manager Kevin Cash didn't give him much of a leash.
Snell limited the damage to one run in a 25-pitch first inning then retired 11 straight and 13 of 14 before allowing a leadoff single in sixth to Brett Gardner, just his second hit allowed. But that's when Cash decided that was enough, summoning Cishek to start a bullpen parade that ended with Alex Colome logging his majors-most 44th save.
Cash raved about how well Snell pitched, lauding the lanky lefty for making the adjustment to get more aggressive after the first, saying he was "awesome" and put together "a really, really solid start.''
But with the speedy Gardner on first and the Yankees having four tough right-handers coming up in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro, Cash felt Cishek, and his proclivity for getting ground balls, was the better option.
"I felt like it was the perfect time to bring in out right-handed weapon against their guys,'' Cash said. "Cishek has been as good as anybody since the (trade) deadline for us, obviously, maybe as good as anybody in baseball. That was a big time in the game.''
Cash's call worked out, as Cishek got Judge, Sanchez and Holliday out in order, then two of the first three in the seventh. Cash then used his bullpen the way he likes to, with Dan Jennings getting lefty pinch-hitter Didi Gregorius to end the seventh, Tommy Hunter in the eighth and Alex Colome in the ninth for his majors-most 44th save.
Snell said he was "frustrated" because as a competitor he wants to stay in the game, but he understood.
"I realize we're trying to make the playoffs, we're making a push,'' Snell said. "We have a really solid bullpen. Cash is going to manage the game like a playoff game. We need to win these. So I understand. I need to keep getting better.''
Kevin Kiermaier got the Rays going, homering on Gray's first pitch to quickly tie it, his second career leadoff homer, and 12th overall of the season.
Then Hechavarria, who also had a busy day in the field, including fielding three ground balls in the ninth, turned what had been a rough night against Gray into a good one.
"I decided to swing hard,'' Hechavarria said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro, "and I connected.''
Three straight home openers in 2018
The Rays will get plenty of pomp and circumstance to begin next season, as the 2018 schedule released Tuesday has them playing in three home openers — their own to start the season against the Red Sox on March 29 at the Trop, at Yankee Stadium on April 2 and at Fenway Park on April 5.
The March 29 opener will be the earliest in club history as MLB has moved the schedule up from past years. It also will be the Rays' first opener on a Thursday.
The Rays are matched up with NL East teams for interleague play. Visitors to the Trop are the Phillies (April 13-15), Braves (May 8-9), Nationals (June 25-26) and in-state rival Marlins (July 20-22).
The Rays will make interleague visits to Nats (June 5-6), Marlins (July 2-4), Mets (July 6-8) and Braves (Aug. 28-29).
The Rays play 19 games against each of their AL East opponents, with 10 against the Red Sox in April and 10 against the Blue Jays in September, including the season finale at the Trop on Sept. 30.
The schedule remains subject to change, with game times to be announced at a later date.
Quote of the day
"I didn't like the stuff that was in the refrigerator anyway, so we can do a re-do."
Cash, on returning to his Tampa house that may still be without power.
LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm) and RHP Nate Eovaldi (Tommy John surgery) headed to Durham, N.C., to join the Bulls tonight and make their second rehab appearances in Game 2 of the International League championship series, both working in relief. Cedeno is aiming to return by late September. The Rays will decide on Eovaldi, whether to use him in relief or wait until next season when he will be a starter.
LHP Brendan McKay, the Rays' top draft pick, pitched five one-hit innings as short-season Class A Hudson Valley beat Staten Island (Yankees) 7-1 in the third and final game of the NY-Penn League semifinal series. … LHP Ryan Yarbrough pitched seven shutout innings as Durham beat Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Yankees) 6-0 to open of the best-of-five Triple-A finals. This is the Bulls' 11th trip to the finals in 20 seasons as a Rays affiliate.
. DH/1B Luca Duda went into play Tuesday with his last 12 hits going for extra bases (a team record for such a streak), since a single on Aug. 14. He then doubled in his first at-bat.
. Monday's game drew a pro-Yankees crowd of 15,327, taking advantage of $25 lower-bowl pricing, and there looked to be more Tuesday as several sections of the second deck were opened at Citi Field.
. Monday's 5-1 loss went to RHP Jake Odorizzi, but 3B Trevor Plouffe, missing a ground ball, and C Wilson Ramos, committing catcher's interference, were complicit for errors that extended the fourth inning after two were out, leading to Todd Frazier's three-run homer. Odorizzi threw 51 pitches in that inning.
. Odorizzi joined other Rays in raving about the Citi Field facilities and the Mets' hospitality, but he said he didn't need long to be reminded they were hardly the home team: "Just the fact of getting booed as soon as I stepped out to go on the field, that's a weird kind of a thing."