NEW YORK (AP) — B.J. Upton and the Tampa Bay Rays never mounted that game-changing rally. Fortunately for them, the Baltimore Orioles did just that in Boston.
Ivan Nova pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning, Curtis Granderson drove in four runs and the New York Yankees moved within one win of a postseason spot by beating Tampa Bay 5-0 on Tuesday night.
Though they wasted a chance to trim their deficit in the AL wild-card race, the Rays had something to feel good about: They remained two games behind the Red Sox, who coughed up a late lead and lost 7-5 to Baltimore.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have gained a game, but it didn’t happen,” Upton said. “We can’t dwell on it. It’s done with. The good thing is, we didn’t lose any ground, either. We have to regroup and get ready to win a ballgame tomorrow.”
Granderson hit a three-run double and reached base four times, boosting his MVP credentials as the Yankees slowed Tampa Bay’s late charge at Boston. The Rays have nine games remaining, six against the Yankees. The Red Sox have seven games left, four against last-place Baltimore and three in New York.
“I absolutely love it. This is what you plot in the offseason, and you play the whole season to play meaningful games at this time of year,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I know we’re not going to get any extra money for it, but we’ve already been in the playoffs for about 10 days. And it’s been fantastic.”
New York can secure its 16th postseason trip in 17 years with one victory in Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader against the Rays. In fact, the AL East leaders are in with a win over Tampa Bay in any of their six remaining matchups this season.
The Yankees could also wrap up the division title Wednesday with a doubleheader sweep and another Red Sox loss to Baltimore.
“Right now we feel we’ve got ourselves in a good spot,” outfielder Nick Swisher said. “We’re not worried about anybody else, we’re not paying attention to anybody else.”
One day after Mariano Rivera set the major league saves record with No. 602, New York turned its attention to a four-game series with surging Tampa Bay, which trailed Boston by nine games on Sept. 3. No major league team has ever overcome that large a deficit in September to reach the postseason.
Nova (16-4) pitched in traffic all night but the rookie never caved, allowing six hits and three walks over 7 2-3 innings. Despite a midseason demotion to the minors, he is 12-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 15 starts since a June 3 loss at the Los Angeles Angels.
Nova’s ability to pitch out of trouble kept the Yankees in control even though they went 1 for 7 with the bases loaded and stranded 18 runners — their most in a nine-inning game since Sept. 21, 1956, when they set the major league record with 20 in a 13-7 loss at Boston.
One of the few big hits was Granderson’s bases-loaded double down the right-field line off Wade Davis (10-10) in the second. Eric Chavez had an RBI single earlier in the inning following Swisher’s leadoff double.
The rally was helped along when Brett Gardner reached on a bunt single to load the bases. It appeared second baseman Sean Rodriguez had his foot on the edge of the first base bag as he took the throw in time, but Gardner was called safe by umpire Scott Barry.
Davis and Maddon argued the call, to no avail.