ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Ji-Man Choi hit a game-ending home run in the 12th inning that helped Tampa Bay remain on track for an AL wild card berth, and the Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Tuesday on a night CC Sabathia pitched a perfect inning in his first regular-season relief appearance.
Choi homered off Cory Gearrin (1-3) after Pete Fairbanks (2-3) struck out Brett Gardner with a runner on second and two outs in the top half.
Tampa Bay remained a half-game ahead of Cleveland for the second AL wild card. New York has one more game with the Rays in 2019 as Tampa Bay desperately tries to hang on to their spot in the second Wild Card — trailing Oakland by one game.
AL East champion New York (102-56) slipped as it tries to overtake Houston (102-54) for best record in the AL and homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs.
The Yankee offense looked more like the all-or-nothing strikeout machine that failed in the playoffs last year — going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and striking out 13 times Tuesday.
Sabathia, a 39-year-old left-hander who is retiring at the end of the season, had made 560 regular season starts but is being moved to the bullpen along with J.A. Happ ahead of the postseason.
Sabathia struck out Travis d’Arnaud, induced a groundout from Choi and retired Matt Duffy on a called third strike. Sabathia’s only prior big league relief appearance was in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, when he allowed one earned run over 1 1/3 innings against Detroit.
He received a standing ovation as he walked toward the dugout after the inning from a large group of Yankees’ fans among the announced crowd of 16,699.
Cameron Maybin homered in the third off Yonny Chirinos, New York’s 299th homer this season. It made the Yankees the first team in major league history to have 14 players with 10 or more home runs in the same season.
Cam hits double digits 👀 pic.twitter.com/tlgEnmHuom
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 24, 2019
Kevin Keiermaier tied the score in the fifth with a home run against Stephen Tarpley, the fourth of 11 Yankees pitchers.
Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery gave up three hits and struck out three over two scoreless innings in his second appearance and first start since returning from Tommy John surgery.
New York third baseman Gio Urshela was hit by a Diego Castillo pitch in the sixth and left an inning later with a bruised left hand. X-rays were negative.
Yankees 2B Gleyber Torres had his eighth-inning pop-fly hit off an overhanging catwalk at Tropicana Field and land in front of second base where shortstop Willy Adames fielded the ball and threw to second baseman Mike Brosseau to force out DJ LeMahieu.
Torres (lower leg weakness) returned after missing two games and went 0-for-5.
C Gary Sánchez (strained left groin) and Edwin Encarnación (strained left oblique) are both expected back during the regular-season ending series this weekend at Texas.
Happ (12-8) will follow an opener Wednesday night. RHP Charlie Morton (15-6) starts for the Rays.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)