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Rays Tighten Race With Win Over Royals

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Carl Crawford

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Matt Joyce hit a two-run triple and eight pitchers combined on a shutout, leading the Tampa Bay Rays past the Kansas City Royals 4-0 Saturday night and pushing the AL East race to the final day of the season.

Earlier in the day, the New York Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-5 in 10 innings in the first game of a doubleheader in Boston. Pending the outcome of the nightcap, the Yankees (95-65) held a half-game lead over the Rays (95-66).

The division title will be decided Sunday, with the winner getting home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Both teams already clinched playoff spots.

If the Rays and Yankees finish the regular season in a tie, Tampa Bay is the division winner because it won the head-to-head season series 10-8. The Yankees would get the wild card.

If the Rays win their second AL East title since 2008, they will start the best-of-five division series at home Wednesday against Texas. If the Yankees win the division, the Rays will travel from Kansas City to Minnesota on Sunday night and play the AL Central champion Twins beginning Wednesday.

It’s the sixth time since division play began 41 years ago that the top two teams in the AL East were separated by a game or less heading into the final two days.

The Rays, also getting their rotation in shape for the postseason, used eight pitchers. The win went to Chad Qualls (2-0), who threw only two pitches and got Josh Fields to ground into an inning-ending double play in the third.

The loss guaranteed Kansas City’s sixth last-place finish in the AL Central in 10 years.

Trailing 3-0, the Royals loaded the bases with nobody out in the third on Gregor Blanco’s single, Mike Aviles’ double and a hit batter. After starter Andy Sonnanstine struck out Kila Ka’aihue, Qualls got Fields to ground into a double play.

B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford singled off Kyle Davies (8-12) in the first inning and scored on Joyce’s triple. Crawford hit his career-best 19th home run off Davies with two outs in the third and Upton made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Davies went 5 2-3 innings and ended his year giving up four runs on six hits.

Sonnanstine went 2 1-3 innings and gave up five hits.

NOTES: The Rays will finish the season with a winning record against every AL team but the Royals. … Tickets for the Rays’ first two home games of the AL division series are sold out. … The Royals picked up their $6 million option for 2011 on outfielder David DeJesus. … The walk-up attendance of 6,124 was KC’s second-largest of the year.

© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.

Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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