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Hellickson's home struggles continue; Rays eliminated

Allows four runs over 4 1/3 innings; Forsythe homers, plates three

Hellickson's home struggles continue; Rays eliminated play video for Hellickson's home struggles continue; Rays eliminated

ST. PETERSBURG -- Since the end of the 2007 season, since getting rid of the "Devil" in front of their name, the Rays have played only 13 games in which they had already been eliminated from the postseason race. They played 11 in 2009 and two in 2012.

They're about to play eight more.

The Rays already had to come to terms with the reality of missing out on the playoffs this season. Logan Forsythe said after Friday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox at Tropicana Field that nobody in the home clubhouse even thought about whether they were mathematically alive in the postseason race.

But the Rays' 80th loss made it official: They're out of the playoff picture, and a seventh straight winning season seems all but impossible.

"Very strange. It's no fun," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We expect to be there on an annual basis regardless of whatever anybody wants to talk about, financial restrictions, whatever. To me, that's never mattered and it's never going to matter. We had that opportunity this year.

"The group of people that we have is very capable of playing in the postseason. We shot ourselves in the foot, in the thigh, possibly in the biceps. We just kept beating ourselves up."

In that regard, the way the Rays lost Friday's game before a crowd of 17,540 was fitting. Tampa Bay jumped out to a three-run lead in the third inning and wasted it away in the fifth, unable to mount a comeback against White Sox lefty Jose Quintana and Chicago's bullpen.

The Rays have held a lead in 13 straight games and won only seven. In seven of those games, six of them losses, they've failed to hold leads of 4-0 (three times), 3-0 (twice), 2-0 and 1-0. Now, they would have to win out to finish above .500.

"It's been a very difficult year from that perspective. You take away that awful (1-14) stretch which we had, we've played pretty good since the break," Maddon said. "The guys are still fighting. We put ourselves in a significant hole, and it's been really hard to dig out. ... It was a really significant moment that we put ourselves into, and that's pretty much it."

Forsythe drove in the Rays' three runs, plating Evan Longoria and Wil Myers on a line-drive double to left-center field in the first inning and smashing a solo homer, his sixth, to left in the third inning.

But Quintana bounced back after his shaky start, allowing three runs (one earned) on nine hits over 7 1/3 innings.

"I started a little bit badly with the two runs in the first inning," Quintana said. "But I tried to keep going in the game and tried to throw my best stuff and get a win."

And right-hander Jeremy Hellickson couldn't hold the lead for long. Chicago's first six batters of the fifth inning reached base safely, one on a leadoff walk and another on a fielder's choice. Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu hit back-to-back RBI singles, and Avisail Garcia made it a four-run inning with a double to left.

Just like that, the Rays' lead -- and Hellickson's chance for a win -- evaporated. Hellickson, who allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings, has gone 12 starts at Tropicana Field without a victory, and the Rays have lost his last eight starts overall.

"It's just happened so many times this year, guys give me a three- or four-run lead, I throw four or five scoreless and the next inning I just lose it," Hellickson said. "I made a few mistakes after the walk and just couldn't make a big pitch to get out of that and keep the lead."

Hellickson is hardly acquainted with the feeling of playing games with no postseason implications -- he's only been a part of two with the Rays -- but he admitted it's "definitely no fun to come to the park and play and know you're not going to be playing in October."

As Maddon said, the Rays expect to play meaningful games right up until the end every year, and that's certainly true for 2015 as well. Now, all that's left for the Rays in 2014 is these eight games as they try to build toward the future.

"I think that's everybody's mentality. We know where we stand and we're working toward what we need to work on this offseason and take it into Spring Training," Forsythe said. "We're just going to try to finish strong."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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No postseason, but Rays show plenty of fight

Injuries, overworked bullpen took too much of a toll in '14

No postseason, but Rays show plenty of fight play video for No postseason, but Rays show plenty of fight

ST. PETERSBURG -- Postseason elimination came to the Rays on Friday night, bringing to an end what has been a disappointing season.

"The nice thing is there's really nothing to pinpoint," Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg recently said. "... We dug just way too deep of a hole early on. So, it was disappointing back in April and May and into June, so that feeling has sort of subsided a bit.

"I think playing baseball like we did for a couple of months after that probably adds to it a little bit because we know with this team, not just what they were capable of, but what they had the ability to do."

The Rays left Spring Training with the look of a champion. On paper, there seemed to be no holes. But injuries bit the team hard, early, when they lost Matt Moore for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and Alex Cobb for an extended period due to an oblique injury.

On June 10, the Rays had the worst record in baseball -- by four games -- at 24-42 (including a 1-14 stretch) and nothing seemed to be working. The offense ranked 28th in runs scored per game and the staff ERA ranked 22nd. That ineffectiveness by the starters had a residual effect on the bullpen that led the Major Leagues in innings pitched at that juncture.

In short, the easiest tact for the team would have been to quit and look toward 2015. The 2014 Rays did not.

From June 11 through Aug. 15, the Rays began to click, posting the Major Leagues' best record over that period at 37-19. Complementing the run were offensive and pitching improvements, fueling the team's hopes for making the postseason.

Never was that feeling stronger than when the Rays reached .500 at 61-61 on Aug. 15. Unfortunately, the energy spent trying to arrive at the even point could not be maintained.

"You utilize a lot of mental energy as much as anything to get yourself back [in] there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And it's not easy to do that. You get back there and you have to maintain this real high level of success on a professional level against professionals. So it's not easy to do. But I really thought we could. I never thought that we could not.

"And all of a sudden we were on the verge of pulling it off. We got back to .500 and since then it's just been teetering back and forth. Just could not get back to that level of play that we had going on for a long time. It's not easy to do. I understand that."

Since first reaching the postseason in 2008, the Rays have strung together six consecutive winning seasons and they've twice won the AL East. So the hope is that this year's season is an aberration.

"None of us like the fact we are not winning the division," Maddon said. "It's the goal, it's going to be the goal every year. We feel like we can do it. We thought we could do it this year. And in spite of all of this, again, just a really bad awkward moment. ... We get into this 1-14 stretch and all of a sudden it's really difficult. But I give our guys a lot of credit. They continued to play hard."

While Maddon, Sternberg, Rays fans and Rays players don't like how the season will finish, the effort level never came into question.

"Watching our guys, I've been really pleased and impressed with the attitude of our players," Maddon said. "In spite of having to come back from a pretty large deficit."

Maddon allowed that some sweet forecasts are destined to turn sour.

"It just happens," Maddon said. "It's nobody's fault. It's just the way this things rolls sometimes. You try to be the best every year. Obviously, it's hard to do.

"I would want to believe we'll reflect on [what happened in 2014] and really never let it happen again, and never let it happen in the next 10 years or so. Get back on that division-winning horse. Because that's our goal every year."

As for moving forward, Sternberg said "forward is easy."

"Thankfully, [the 2014 season is] an odd place for us to be. A September when games are less meaningful than they have been in the past."

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

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Zobrist named Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player

Local BBWAA chapter also honors Odorizzi, Longoria

Zobrist named Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player play video for Zobrist named Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of American announced its annual award winners before Friday's game at Tropicana Field, with the top individual award now honoring a late baseball legend and close friend.

Ben Zobrist, the Rays' best hitter amid their hottest stretch of the season, was named the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player, an award that reflects the club's reverence for Zimmer, their former senior adviser who passed away June 4.

"He's such a special person to everyone around here," Zobrist said. "He always thought of the little things, and he always talked to me about those things as a ballplayer and how important those things are to making a complete ballplayer and helping the club. You don't think about ... the little things [being] that important for an MVP; it's about the big things.

"But it's pretty cool that I was able to win the award this year, and the fact that Zim always appreciated those things and I think the writers and the committee obviously saw some of those things as well."

Zobrist, who finished ahead of closer Jake McGee and third baseman Evan Longoria in the voting, entered Friday night hitting .268/.353/.394 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs while playing solid defense all over the field. He leads the team with 5.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs.com.

But Zobrist was at his best when the Rays were at theirs, batting .315/.403/.477 as Tampa Bay climbed back into contention with a 37-19 stretch from June 11-Aug. 15.

"'Zobrist' in the dictionary equals consistency," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He started out somewhat slowly, but then he really gained momentum and has been there pretty much the whole season, offensively speaking."

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was named Rookie of the Year, having gone 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 165 innings. Odorizzi, who finished ahead of Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer, said he was looking forward to entering next season with some certainty regarding where he stands after battling for the fifth starter's job in Spring Training.

"I've had the full year. I know what to expect. I've seen every team that we're going to be playing," Odorizzi said. "It's just a comfort level going into next year that I'm going to be ready to go out of the gate. ... There's a lot of things, statistically, that I think I could've gotten better at this year."

Longoria received the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, named in honor of the late MLB.com writer and presented to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. In addition to his role as the team's leader, Longoria, also the Rays' nominee for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award, has committed to donate more than $1 million to the Rays Baseball Foundation, which supports youth and education programs.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Archer seeks to minimize damage against White Sox

Starters, ballclubs seek strong finishes to season

Archer seeks to minimize damage against White Sox play video for Archer seeks to minimize damage against White Sox

Saturday's matchup between the White Sox and the Rays features two teams that have been mathematically eliminated from the American League Wild Card race.

The Rays saw their playoff hopes officially come to an end with Friday's loss, and the White Sox have been out of the running since Tuesday.

With only pride on the line, Chris Archer will square off against Hector Noesi at Tropicana Field.

Archer, who allowed one run on three hits with three walks and nine strikeouts in Toronto on Sunday, is making his 15th home start of the season. Tropicana Field hasn't been kind to the right-hander, who owns a 4-5 record with a 4.32 ERA on home turf. He's allowed a homer in four straight games -- the longest such stretch of his career -- and his limited lifetime numbers against the White Sox aren't the greatest. Archer is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in eight innings against Chicago.

Archer's homer streak flies in the face of his trends this season. He's yielded only 0.55 home runs per nine innings in 2014, fifth-lowest in the American League.

He'll go up against White Sox starter Noesi, who's looking to finish the season strong and has long passed his career-high mark for innings pitched.

Noesi will be making his 26th start and has thrown 160 1/3 innings. Three of his last four outings have been quality starts, and over his last two road games, he's allowed only three earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. Noesi suffered his 10th loss in his last outing against Minnesota, allowing five runs on eight hits with three strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. He's 0-2 lifetime at the Trop.

Rays: BBWAA names award winners
The Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of American announced its annual award winners before Friday's game at Tropicana Field, with the top individual award now honoring a late baseball legend and close friend.

Ben Zobrist, the Rays' best hitter amid their hottest stretch of the season, was named the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player, an award that reflects the club's reverence for Zimmer, their former senior adviser who passed away June 4.

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was named Rookie of the Year, having gone 11-12 with a 3.98 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 165 innings. Evan Longoria, meanwhile, received the Paul C. Smith Champion Award, named in honor of the late MLB.com writer and presented to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

White Sox: Konerko back for home stretch
With only a handful of games left in his 18-year career, Paul Konerko was back on the field Friday night.

Konerko hadn't played since Sept. 2 because of a fractured left hand, but No. 14 was penciled into the White Sox lineup, batting sixth and playing first base.

"I can still feel it in there a little bit, but I think it's more than ready to go give it a try," Konerko said, before going 0-for-4. "Going back to 12, 13 days ago, I feel like I've come a long way -- because I was really nervous. Not that I wouldn't get back out there, but that it would just be, like, for show the last weekend.

Konerko, 38, has been with Chicago for the last 16 years, the second-longest current tenure with a Major League team after Derek Jeter's run with the Yankees.

Worth noting
• Jose Abreu's 35 home runs are tied for the White Sox single-season rookie record with Ron Kittle's mark, set in 1983.

• Since the end of the 2007 season, the Rays have played only 13 games in which they'd already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. They were eliminated with 11 games left in 2009 and two in 2012.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Field, Snell among Rays' Minor League award winners

Outfielder named Player of the Year; lefty receives Pitcher of the Year

Field, Snell among Rays' Minor League award winners play video for Field, Snell among Rays' Minor League award winners

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays handed out their Minor League awards before Friday night's game at Tropicana Field, with outfielder Johnny Field named Player of the Year and left-hander Blake Snell the organization's Pitcher of the Year.

The winners arrived early Friday night, signing autographs down the right-field line before accepting their awards on the field from executive vice president Andrew Friedman and director of Minor League operations Mitch Lukevics.

Field, 22, hit .300/.376/.488 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs for Class A Bowling Green and Class A Advanced Charlotte, playing primarily center field. A fifth-round Draft pick in 2013, Field doesn't boast the physical gifts of many other top prospects -- he's listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds -- but prides himself on his hard work, modeling himself after Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier.

"He's a man-made player. He really likes to play the game, works at the game very hard," Lukevics said. "You wouldn't put him in a category with some of the other players with total skill, but he's proven with heart, determination and the skill he has that he's become a really good player. ... A hustle guy, without question."

Snell, 21, went 8-8 with a 3.19 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings over 24 starts for Bowling Green and Charlotte. The 2011 first-rounder threw the first no-hitter in Charlotte history on Aug. 2, twirling 5 1/3 innings in a rain-shortened contest.

Lukevics noted how much Snell, ranked as the club's No. 13 prospect, has matured over the last year, and Snell agreed that his development has been more on the mental side than anything physical or mechanical. With an overpowering fastball to go along with a changeup and curveball, Snell compared his repertoire to that of Rays lefty Matt Moore.

"I really was just trying to learn as much as I could from my pitching coaches. I was just having fun," Snell said. "I've always had powerful stuff. I just didn't know how to use it. ... I'm more confident. I'm more comfortable with myself. When I pitch, I kind of feel bad for the hitter just because I know the kind of stuff that I have."

Infielder Tommy Coyle was named the organization's Baserunner of the Year, while lefty Adam Liberatore was named Reliever of the Year and catcher Justin O'Conner, who appeared in this year's All-Star Futures Game, was named Defensive Player of the Year. O'Connor is ranked No. 14 among the club's top 20 prospects.

Bowling Green right-hander Jake Faria was named the Erik Walker Community Champion, an award given annually to a Minor Leaguer who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement.

The following players were named Most Valuable Player for their respective Minor League affiliates: Triple-A Durham outfielder Mikie Mahtook; Double-A Montgomery infielder Ryan Brett; Charlotte infielder Patrick Leonard; Bowling Green infielder Kean Wong; Short-Season Class A Hudson Valley outfielder Hunter Lockwood; Rookie-level Princeton right-hander Brent Honeywell; Gulf Coast League right-hander Henry Centeno; Dominican Summer League outfielder Angel Perez; and Venezuelan Summer League outfielder Oscar Rojas.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: How's Tampa Bay's bullpen shaping up for next season?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from Rays fans

Inbox: How's Tampa Bay's bullpen shaping up for next season? play video for Inbox: How's Tampa Bay's bullpen shaping up for next season?

"Jake and The Box" -- Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger -- have done a great job this season, which is a development that came after Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour didn't exactly distinguish themselves. How do you see next year's bullpen shaking out?
-- Sam J., Brooksville, Fla.

Good question. Based on how the season is wrapping up, I would be surprised to see anything besides McGee as the closer and Boxberger as the top setup man. However, there's cause to believe that Balfour can make a successful comeback from a disappointing season, and he'll surely be given the chance based on the fact that the Rays are on the hook to pay him $7 million next season. Tampa Bay has an option of $2.5 million for Joel Peralta's services for 2015, so the club will have to make a tough call there. Meanwhile, plenty of other candidates will be in the mix like Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos, Jeff Beliveau, Steve Geltz, C.J. Riefenhauser and Kirby Yates, to name a few.

I'm disappointed in Ryan Hanigan this season. I thought he was going to be the answer at catcher. Are the Rays going to be happy to run him out there again next season with Molina as his backup? Why don't they trade for a better catcher? It's frustrating to watch.
-- Bill R., Tampa, Fla.

First, unless Molina decides to retire, it's likely he'll again be the team's second catcher in 2015. Hanigan isn't going anywhere, either, since he's signed through 2016 with an option for '17. I would expect to see Hanigan catch more games in 2015, which is contingent upon him remaining healthy. Based on the number of games Hanigan missed this season, I don't think you can entirely judge what he did. As for trading for a better catcher, I'll quote a scout who told me: "There ain't no Johnny Bench out there." And if there was, I don't believe the team that had him on its roster would be willing to make a trade, do you?

With Matt Moore coming back next season, why don't the Rays trade Jeremy Hellickson for a power hitter?
-- John H., St. Petersburg

I don't look for the Rays to head into the offseason looking to trade any of their pitchers. Having a wealth of young starters is the strength of the organization, and you saw what happened this year when they got a little thin in their starting rotation. So I believe that Tampa Bay will be perfectly happy to head to Spring Training with the likes of Cobb, Archer, Odorizzi, Smyly, Hellickson, Moore (though he won't be back until late May or early June), Alex Colome and Nathan Karns competing for five spots. And like my previous remarks about catchers, there aren't a lot of quality designated hitters for sale. And if they were, they would be expensive. Finally, manager Joe Maddon likes to rotate the position to allow players a day away from playing defense.

Jake Odorizzi seemed to make strides this season. With Matt Moore coming back and Nathan Karns and Alex Colome on the horizon, how do you see him fitting in with the Rays in the future?
-- Baily H., Clearwater, Fla.

Odorizzi did make great strides this season. After battling to win the fifth-starter spot in Spring Training, the right-hander struggled to begin the season, going 2-6 with a 5.31 ERA in his first 12 starts. After that, Odorizzi just seemed to get it, navigating the strike zone with expertise -- and generating a lot of swings and misses without an overpowering fastball. In short, he showed he knows how to pitch, and he showed he belongs.

Wil Myers doesn't look like the same player he was last season when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. What happened to him this season? And what are the Rays' future plans for him? They sure seem to have a lot of outfielders.
-- Don N.

While Myers did struggle, keep in mind he was not healthy for much of the season. He injured his left hand in the sixth game of the season, then he went on the disabled list after fracturing his right wrist. Based on what I saw in 2013, I expect Myers to return to form next season, giving the Rays a legitimate power threat in their lineup.

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

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Longoria proud to be associated with Clemente

Star third baseman is Rays' nominee for annual award

Longoria proud to be associated with Clemente play video for Longoria proud to be associated with Clemente

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced Evan Longoria as the Rays' nominee for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award. Each year, the award recognizes an MLB player who "best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."

Longoria will be recognized in a ceremony on Wednesday at Tropicana Field before Tampa Bay's series finale against the Yankees. Wednesday is the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, established by MLB to acknowledge the nominees from all 30 clubs and honor Clemente's legacy.

"I'm excited," Longoria said. "Year after year, you try to do more and be a part of the community a little bit more, and I think it's very cool to have people take notice of that, but ultimately, the goal is to contribute as much as you can, no matter who's noticing."

Longoria has committed to donate more than $1 million to the Rays Baseball Foundation, which supports youth and education programs. His work in the Tampa, Fla., and St. Pete communities includes a variety of organizations, such as Moffitt Cancer Center, the leading cancer research and treatment facility in Florida, to which Longoria will be donating as part of the award process.

Beginning Wednesday, fans can vote for the award's national recipient at ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media. Voting ends on Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to next month's World Series. The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, from which the honoree will be chosen.

Longoria said he was honored to even be linked to Clemente's name. Clemente, a 15-time MLB All-Star and Hall of Famer, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972, while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

"It means a tremendous amount, because I think what we try to do in this game is be a positive impact for young people and older fans alike, and really just use our platform and the stage that we're given on a nightly basis to try to provide a positive message," Longoria said. "Obviously, historically speaking, Roberto Clemente exemplifies that, and so just to be associated with that award is a tremendous honor."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Command eludes Cobb as Rays miss out on sweep

Longoria goes deep, but starter sees end of stingy club-record run

Command eludes Cobb as Rays miss out on sweep play video for Command eludes Cobb as Rays miss out on sweep

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Cobb didn't come close to a no-hitter this time around. He didn't continue his streak of allowing two runs or fewer, either, or carry the Rays to a series sweep of the Yankees in the clubs' final meeting of the season. No, Cobb's last start at Tropicana Field in 2014 was a pedestrian 3-2 loss to New York on Wednesday night.

Five days earlier, Cobb took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium, but on Wednesday, the right-hander gave up three runs in six innings, ending his franchise-record run of 12 straight starts allowing no more than two. The loss means Tampa Bay would have to end the season 8-1 to finish above .500 for a seventh straight year.

Cobb lacked the command that has helped him dominate opponents for the last few months -- walking three, hitting a batter and striking out only three, his lowest total since July 18. Before Wednesday's loss, Cobb had compiled a Major League-best 1.10 ERA over his previous 10 starts.

"For some reason, the ball just kept sailing on me up and away," Cobb said. "I tried to make the proper adjustments, would end up yanking it. I don't have a clear answer for it right now, but it's obvious signs of your body just dragging a little bit and your arm dragging behind."

Things started off well enough -- perfectly, in fact -- as through three innings, Cobb had retired all nine Yankees he'd faced. But Jacoby Ellsbury broke up the no-no early with a single into center field leading off the fourth, and Cobb gave up a pair of RBI doubles to Chase Headley and Brendan Ryan in the fifth and a sacrifice fly to Brett Gardner in the sixth.

Cobb had hit Chris Young with a curveball that backed up on him to lead off the fifth, sparking the two-run inning that gave the Yankees the lead. Rays manager Joe Maddon said that was the point where he thought Cobb started to lose his mechanics.

"I think when the breaking ball hit Young, it kind of threw him off a little bit," Maddon said. "With his delivery, it's kind of freaky, it's different, and he's got to feel that whole thing coming together."

Maddon stressed, though, that he didn't think it had anything to do with the string of hit-by-pitches stretching back to last week's series at Yankee Stadium that culminated in a benches-clearing incident and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Tony Pena and reliever David Phelps being ejected on Tuesday.

There was a smattering of "Oohs" from the crowd of 26,332 when Cobb hit Young, but it was clearly unintentional and neither team reacted.

"I heard the boos, but that's just unknowledgable baseball fans, if I dare go there," Cobb said. "Probably lost command before that, that's why I hit him. It was the beginning of that inning where I did lose command -- but it could be due to the fact that he's a pretty aggressive baserunner and I tried to speed up my delivery a little bit too much, my arm wasn't catching up, and then just kind of fell into a bad habit."

Evan Longoria hit his 22nd home run of the season for the Rays, a solo shot in the fourth that opened the scoring. After adding an RBI groundout in the sixth, Longoria has driven in 90 runs on the season and 46 since the All-Star break, tied for the most in the Majors during that span.

Longoria's homer came off Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy, who went seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four -- three of which came during an immaculate seventh inning in which he struck out the side on nine pitches.

Derek Jeter, playing the final game of his career at The Trop, broke out of an 0-for-28 skid with a clean single through the middle off Cobb to open the sixth.

"Cobb's tough," Jeter said. "I don't care how you've been swinging the bat, when you face him, it's difficult."

Did Cobb "pipe" Jeter a meatball to help him out in his last game against the Rays, like Adam Wainwright joked he did for Jeter during the All-Star Game?

"He earned that hit," Cobb said.

Later in the inning, it was Jeter who scored on Gardner's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Wil Myers made a tremendous leaping catch at the wall to prevent more runs from scoring, but it was enough to make the Yankees' win hold up.

"I mean, he's had so many special moments in his career and we've seen quite a few of them over the course of my time playing against him, so I don't think that was too much of a heroic moment for him," Longoria said of Jeter. "But I'm sure he was happy to come out of the slump and be able to help them win."

Still, after the Rays honored Jeter with gifts and a pregame ceremony Tuesday, that was a little more of a send-off than they could have done with.

"That was totally unintended," Maddon said.

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Wil climber: Myers makes clutch, leaping catch

With bases loaded, Rays outfielder holds Yanks' Gardner to sac fly with gem

Wil climber: Myers makes clutch, leaping catch play video for Wil climber: Myers makes clutch, leaping catch

ST. PETERSBURG -- Wil Myers showed some ups in the Rays' 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night.

The Rays' right fielder made a key play in the sixth that helped Alex Cobb escape a bases-loaded jam with just one run scoring to keep the game interesting.

Derek Jeter singled through the middle to start the inning before Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases.

Chris Young, who has had the Rays' number over the past two weeks, popped out for the first out of the inning before Brett Gardner followed with a towering drive to right that appeared headed for the seats.

Myers leaped at the last instant to catch the drive, which would not have cleared the fence but would likely have cleared the bases.

"I knew it was barely going to be out or I had a play at the wall," Myers said. "And I ran back, checked the wall, took my eye off the ball, got back to it, was able to pick it back up and just timed the jump right. I was pretty happy with that."

Myers wasn't sure how the play would turn out.

"You know what? As I was jumping up, I thought that I jumped too early and I wasn't going to be able to catch it, but sure enough it landed in my glove," Myers said.

When a reporter noted that Myers had demonstrated good hang time, Myers smiled: "Great hang time."

Kevin Kiermaier observed the play from center field. When asked about what he saw, his first response was, "Wow!"

"Very athletic," said Kiermaier, who knows a thing or two about making athletic plays. "I tried tipping my hat to him. I think he was caught up in the moment. But that was amazing. At first I was like, 'No way he caught that.' Then I looked at the replay. And he caught that straight up. Couldn't have timed that any better. Caught the ball straight up at its highest point. Great job to limit the damage there. Wow. Great play."

Jeter scored the Yankees' third run on the play before Chase Headley walked to again load the bases. Ichiro Suzuki then grounded out to Cobb, who threw to first baseman James Loney to end the threat.

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

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Chin music: Maddon, Headley spar over HBP

Rays skipper clarifies wording after Yanks third baseman takes exception

Chin music: Maddon, Headley spar over HBP play video for Chin music: Maddon, Headley spar over HBP

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon loves to go into the dictionary to talk about baseball, but Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, Yankees third baseman Chase Headley wasn't happy about the words Maddon came up with.

Last week, Headley was hit in the chin by a fastball from Tampa Bay flamethrower Jake McGee, and he didn't return to the lineup until Monday's series opener at The Trop. But in Tuesday night's 6-1 Rays victory -- after Derek Jeter was hit by a Steve Geltz pitch, which led to three Yankees ejections and a benches-clearing incident -- Maddon referenced Headley's injury by saying, "I'm so happy Headley's fine after being grazed in the chin -- I was very happy to see that he was back and playing again."

A teammate passed the "grazed" comment on to Headley, who didn't appreciate it, as he made clear before Wednesday's series finale.

"I'm just going to hope that that's what happened, that it was a poor choice of words, because that certainly wasn't the case," Headley said. "I was pretty lucky, the way that it turned out, but I don't think that it's fair to be minimized or kind of downplayed in how this all went."

When Maddon heard of Headley's reaction, he tried to clarify his intent, saying he didn't mean to make light of Headley's injury, only to express that it did not turn out to be more serious.

"It's all about semantics. If he's offended by the word 'grazed,' I apologize for that -- I didn't mean it in any lack-of-respectful way," Maddon said. "My point was, I was happy he was not hit more squarely and hurt on a more permanent basis. Like, for instance, what happened to [Giancarlo] Stanton recently. ... If I offended him by using the wrong word, my point was the fact that he was not hurt more seriously."

Asked if he had another word to describe what happened to Headley in hindsight, Maddon went with, "Hit-in-the-chin."

Stanton was hit in the face by a pitch on the same day as Headley, in the Marlins' game against the Brewers, and had to be removed from the field on a stretcher. His season, unlike Headley's, is over. That may be why Maddon didn't completely back away from choosing the word "grazed" on Wednesday.

"Well, I was really happy that he wasn't hit flush," Maddon said. "If he was, he wouldn't be playing yesterday."

That also didn't sit well with Headley.

"I can tell you what the doctor said and what I went through. I think that speaks for itself," Headley said. "He said it was a miracle that my jaw didn't shatter. That's his term."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi recalled how "scary" the moment was when Headley got hit, noting that it could have ruined his career and that Headley is still dealing with the effects of the injury.

But Headley said he did at least understand Maddon's intentions, although he disagreed with the semantics.

"Yeah, I don't think there was ill intent as far as being like, 'I wish it would have been worse' or anything," Headley said. "I don't think that. I just think that when you have what's going on in the context of that happening, you've got to be careful.

"It could be construed as minimizing what happened in context to how everything else is going. If Evan Longoria got hit like that, or Ben Zobrist or one of their guys, he wouldn't use that term."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reflections: Jeter a part of Rays' own stories

Maddon, players remember special moments in interaction with Yanks captain

Reflections: Jeter a part of Rays' own stories play video for Reflections: Jeter a part of Rays' own stories

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have been there for Derek Jeter's moments, of course. There've been plenty over his 20-year MLB career -- like when he hammered a home run off Tampa Bay ace David Price for his 3,000th hit. But Jeter's been there for the Rays' moments, too.

When Jeter and the Yankees came to Tropicana Field for his final series in St. Pete -- Wednesday's finale was his last game at The Trop -- several Rays recalled Jeter's appearances in their own career paths, not only their appearances in his.

There was Joe Maddon's first game managing a Major League team, as the interim manager for the Angels in 1996, when No. 2 was the opposing shortstop.

"My first interim manager game was against the Yankees in '96, when [Angels manager] John McNamara got sick," Maddon said. "I believe we won, but that's not the story. The point is, his first at-bat, [Jeter] comes up as the leadoff hitter and hits a home run. I remember that very distinctly."

There was a welcome-to-the-big-leagues moment for Ben Zobrist, who's the longest-tenured Ray but would have to be tenured a while longer to approach Jeter's run with New York.

"I can remember one of the first ground balls I ever hit to Derek in New York, in the hole, and that's been a hit my whole career coming up through the Minor Leagues and anybody else I've ever played against," Zobrist said. "And next thing I know, the ball beat me to first base."

And there was a milestone for closer Jake McGee. In 2010, Jeter became the flamethrowing lefty's first career out when McGee struck out the Yankees captain with the bases loaded on Sept. 14.

"That was my first out in the big leagues," McGee said. "My debut, I couldn't feel what I was doing, really, because of just so many jitters and nerves and stuff going on. But just to get him out ..."

These days, McGee throws almost exclusively fastballs. That day, he started Jeter off with a curveball for a called strike one. "I was so surprised I threw it for a strike," he said.

Now, McGee's velocity sits in the mid- to upper-90s. Not so when he caught Jeter back then.

"It was a fastball down and in," McGee said. "It was, like, 93 [mph] or something like that. I wasn't throwing that hard."

Knowing it was McGee's first Major League strikeout, during the Rays' next trip to New York, Jeter sent him an autographed bat wishing McGee the best. McGee still has it.

Jeter, for his part, recognizes the sheer amount of baseball he's been a part of over the past two decades.

"This is parts of 20 seasons here, but it's parts of 23 professionally," Jeter said. "I've been doing this longer than I haven't been doing this.

"As some of the older players used to say when I was coming up, it's time to let someone else play, you know?"

The thing is, Jeter's been involved with those "someone elses" playing -- like Maddon, Zobrist, McGee and the other Rays -- all along. It's just that now, they'll be playing without Jeter in the other dugout.

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Call quickly overturned after Rays' challenge

Tampa Bay shortstop Zobrist makes fine play to get Yanks' Young at first

Call quickly overturned after Rays' challenge play video for Call quickly overturned after Rays' challenge

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays challenged a call in the eighth inning Wednesday night and won before falling to the Yankees, 3-2, in the series finale at Tropicana Field.

With two outs in the eighth, Yankees outfielder Chris Young hit a ball to the hole that Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist backhanded then skipped across the infield to first baseman James Loney.

First-base umpire Marty Foster called Young safe, which prompted a visit from Rays manager Joe Maddon, who promptly challenged the call.

Thirty seconds later, the umpires overturned the ruling on the field, which translated to the third out and the end of the eighth.

The Rays have had 46 challenges this season. Of those, 20 have been overturned, 13 have stood and 13 have been confirmed.

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

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Rays open floodgates on Yanks after close call

Franklin scores decisive run after notching first hit with new club

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Sandwiched between the pregame accolades and gifts for Derek Jeter, and the fastball that hit him on the left wrist in the eighth inning, the Rays played one of their better games in recent memory, coming away 6-1 winners over the Yankees on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees' captain got the royal treatment before the game, with the Rays Baseball Foundation presenting his Turn 2 Foundation with a $16,000 check. In addition, the Rays gave Jeter a kayak for his retirement and a framed Don Zimmer jersey, which tugged at the heartstrings given the relationship shared by the pair. All of the good feelings seemed far away once Steve Geltz's fastball plunked Jeter and the Rays had essentially already put the game on ice.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi took to the field to defend Jeter and got ejected. A half-inning later, David Phelps was tossed upon throwing an inside pitch to Kevin Kiermaier that led both benches to clear and resulted in the ejection of Phelps and bench coach Tony Pena, effectively putting a damper on a night that had been a pristine baseball celebration to that point.

"We played so well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a really, really good game. And combined with last night's win, you have another good win today. And you don't want to see that happen."

Jeter got hit in Thursday's 5-4 Yankees win in New York, as did Chase Headley, who took a Jake McGee fastball off the chin, adding to the fury.

"It's always frustrating, any time you get hit," Jeter said. "You understand it's part of the game, but there's frustration when guys get continually hit, just like there's frustration on their side when their guys get hit."

The Rays (74-78) won for the fourth time in five games while clinching this three-game series and moving to 11-7 against the Yankees this season.

Like most Rays wins, Tuesday's began with the starting pitcher, and Jake Odorizzi was that guy, rebounding nicely from last week's loss in the Bronx, where a pair of home runs led to his undoing.

This time around, Odorizzi came out on top, giving the Rays the 13th quality start of his rookie campaign. The right-hander allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out three in six innings to earn his 11th win of the season.

"Today I got out of jams, the other day I didn't," Odorizzi said. "Just kind of the same outing. But I came out ahead this time and they came out ahead last time."

Trailing, 1-0, in the fifth, the Rays got some help from the Yankees when they benefited from two New York errors. The first came when Kiermaier reached on a throwing error by second baseman Brendan Ryan. After Ryan Hanigan walked, Yankees starter Michael Pineda made the second error while covering first base on Ben Zobrist's chopper. First baseman Brian McCann flipped Pineda the ball, then watched as Pineda played hot potato until finally dropping the ball. Kiermaier scored from second on the play.

Nick Franklin, playing in his first game with the Rays since the July 31 David Price trade involving Seattle and Detroit, started things in the sixth with a one-out double. Franklin moved to third when Matt Joyce walked and the ball briefly eluded Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli. Franklin was initially called out, but Maddon challenged the call, which was overturned. Yunel Escobar then dropped down a bunt, and the sliding Franklin scored easily for a 2-1 Rays lead.

In the seventh, Evan Longoria and Franklin had RBI singles and Wil Myers drove home two with a sacrifice fly. The odd play occurred when the Rays slugger hit a ball to deep center field that Jacoby Ellsbury dove to catch. By the time the ball got returned to the infield, the trail runner, James Loney, had scored from second base to give the Rays a 6-1 lead.

"First of all, it was a great play by Ellsbury and our guy hit the ball really well," Maddon said. "When I saw when he got up, I think that he thought only one run was going to score. ... Loney took advantage of that moment."

Myers, who has had a tough season at the plate, managed a smile about a play that robbed him of extra bases.

"That's about the way my season's gone," Myers said. "But two RBIs, I'll take it."

If Girardi had his way, the second RBI would not have happened. New York's manager was adamant that Loney left early after tagging second base. Whether Loney left early or not could not be reviewed, much to Girardi's chagrin.

"They said he tagged up," Girardi said. "He didn't tag up. I mean, he did, but he left early. And I don't know how you can watch both, so that's a play that I'll ask Major League Baseball why it's not reviewable, because it's hard to watch both."

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

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Rays successfully challenge out call at third

Ruled safe after review, Franklin races home on next play to snap tie in sixth

Rays successfully challenge out call at third play video for Rays successfully challenge out call at third

ST. PETERSBURG -- Making his Rays debut against the Yankees at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, Nick Franklin took third base on a wild pitch from Michael Pineda with one out in the sixth inning, and his baserunning aggressiveness led to a run -- but only after a replay review. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon successfully challenged what was originally ruled an out, setting up Franklin's dash home on the next play.

With the game tied at 1, Franklin recorded his first hit in a Tampa Bay uniform off Pineda, driving a double into the left-field corner. Facing a full count on the next hitter, Matt Joyce, Pineda bounced ball four in the dirt and off catcher Francisco Cervelli, with the pitch kicking out in front of the plate.

As Joyce trotted to first, Franklin broke for third. Cervelli's throw beat Franklin to the bag, but Franklin came up from his slide vehemently gesticulating that he was safe. That didn't stop third-base umpire Marty Foster from calling Franklin out.

"I mean, I knew I got in before he tagged me -- I knew instantly that I was safe," Franklin said. "I almost didn't get away with it -- I almost got caught, being out at third, which I would've been a little upset about. But it turned out for the better, I guess."

The call, and Franklin's reaction, brought Maddon out of the Rays' dugout to challenge the call. Replays showed that Franklin's foot hit the bag well ahead of third baseman Chase Headley's tag, and after a one-minute, 11-second review, the call was overturned and Franklin was safe.

With runners on first and third, Yunel Escobar dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt along the first-base line. Franklin scored easily, the Yankees had no play on Escobar at first and the Rays took a 2-1 lead en route to a 6-1 victory.

Franklin had a successful debut overall, adding an RBI single in the seventh inning to finish 2-for-4.

"Yeah, it's nice, but more than anything, I want to win," Franklin said. "I was excited to be in there, but it was just about that we got a 'W' at the end of it."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Girardi, Phelps, Pena ejected; benches clear

Yanks' manager tossed after plunking of Jeter; retaliatory pitch escalates feud

Girardi, Phelps, Pena ejected; benches clear play video for Girardi, Phelps, Pena ejected; benches clear

ST. PETERSBURG -- A game that started with a ceremony honoring Derek Jeter ended with three Yankees ejections and a benches-clearing incident.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was tossed in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field after Jeter was hit on the left hand by Rays reliever Steve Geltz. Acting manager Tony Pena, the Yankees' bench coach, was ejected a half-inning later, as was reliever David Phelps, when Phelps sent a fastball under Kevin Kiermaier's chin and to the backstop. Both dugouts and bullpens cleared.

"I'm tired of it," Girardi said. "I'm tired of my guys getting hit, and where they're getting hit. I'm tired of it. You're going to pitch inside, learn to pitch inside. You pitch down in the zone. You don't pitch up. … This is not practice. This is guys' livelihood."

The Yankees have endured five hit-by-pitches in the club's last five games against the Rays, dating to their series at Yankee Stadium last week. Among those plunked were Jeter, who was hit on the left elbow by Brad Boxberger last week, and Chase Headley, who was hit on the chin by a Jake McGee pitch.

"It's always frustrating any time you get hit," Jeter said. "You understand it's part of the game, but yeah, it's frustrating when guys continually get hit. ... They were frustrated when they almost got hit, so I'm sure there's frustration on both sides."

Girardi was a little more than frustrated, though.

"I'm all for pitching inside, but you've got to know how to pitch inside because it's extremely dangerous," Girardi said. "Chase Headley's lucky. He's lucky he's OK. I don't know what they expect."

Even Rays manager Joe Maddon said he couldn't fault Girardi and the Yankees for being upset.

"I really don't blame the Yankees for being upset right there," Maddon said. "We've hit a couple of their guys -- obviously none of it intentional. But again, I understand the frustration. I get it totally."

After the game, Maddon echoed that opinion on Twitter.

"Understand the Yankees frustration, but there was no intent. It's baseball," Maddon tweeted.

Girardi's ejection followed a sequence that began in the bottom of the seventh inning with a tremendous catch by Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. With the bases loaded and one out, Wil Myers drove a ball deep into right-center field that looked like it would clear the bases. But Ellsbury, sprinting back and to his left, made a brilliant diving grab.

Because Ellsbury was so deep in the outfield when he dove, James Loney was able to tag up from second and score, as was Evan Longoria from third. The Yankees appealed the play, believing Loney left early, but Loney was ruled safe and Girardi came out to argue the call. By rule, tag-up appeal plays can't be reviewed. Girardi continued to voice his frustration but was not ejected at that time.

After Jeter was hit in the top of the eighth, though, a fuming Girardi was tossed by home-plate umpire Rob Drake. After Drake warned both dugouts, Girardi came onto the field pointing and yelling at Geltz. Girardi also appeared to exchange words with Longoria, who had come in from third base to support his pitcher.

"I was totally caught off guard," Geltz said. "I felt like [Girardi] of all people should know -- the guy has been around baseball forever -- he should know that's not intentional. … I'm not trying to hit him -- it's Derek Jeter."

Then, in the bottom of the inning, Phelps went up and in on Kiermaier and was immediately ejected by Drake, as was Pena.

"None of their guys got hit, and I got thrown out," Phelps said. "That's one frustrating thing. You guys saw my command the other night -- I was missing glove side a lot. It was just a fastball that got away from me. … I thought you had to hit somebody to get thrown out of the game."

At that point, the benches and bullpens cleared, with players on both sides exchanging words. Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez, who has been in the middle of the Rays' many scrums with the Red Sox this season, had to be held back by members of the Rays' coaching staff.

"I did not want anything to detract from the evening," Maddon said. "I thought our ceremony before the game was outstanding; I thought the gift was great. The last thing you want to do was detract from the evening, and from my perspective in the dugout, I thought it did put a little bit of a nick into it."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Zimmer jersey highlights Rays' Jeter tribute

After receiving kayak, Yanks' captain reunites with late baseball icon's wife

Zimmer jersey highlights Rays' Jeter tribute play video for Zimmer jersey highlights Rays' Jeter tribute

ST. PETERSBURG -- Derek Jeter has been a formidable rival for many teams around the league over the years, but there is a different sense of the retiring Yankees captain around these parts. To the Rays, he is also a neighbor.

Jeter's career was acknowledged before Tuesday's 6-1 Rays win over the Yankees, making the longtime Tampa, Fla., resident just the third visiting player honored at Tropicana Field. He joins Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001 and Mariano Rivera last season.

The most meaningful moment for Jeter came at the conclusion of the ceremony. Soot Zimmer, the wife of longtime Yankees coach and Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, presented Jeter with one of the last jerseys worn by the baseball icon, who passed away on June 4.

"I thought it was awesome that Mrs. Zimmer was out there," Jeter said. "She said a little something before the game that she was going to be out there. It was good to see her."

Accompanied by students from the St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Tampa, Rays senior vice president Mark Fernandez presented Jeter with a $16,000 donation to his Turn 2 Foundation -- a figure that represents $50 for each hit Jeter has recorded against the Rays during his career.

"It was special that they included some of the kids that we work with down here," Jeter said.

Rays director of Minor League operations Mitch Lukevics, who held the same position with the Yankees on Jeter's first day with the organization in 1992, also presented Jeter with a 16-foot Epic sea kayak, painted in Yankees blue with his No. 2 on the back.

"Great kayak, which I'm sure I'll use," Jeter said. "You're laughing, but I'm sure I'll use it."

Jeter was hit on the left hand by an eighth-inning Steve Geltz pitch in the loss, part of a sequence of events that included a benches-clearing incident. Jeter said that what transpired in the game did nothing to spoil the Rays' warm gesture.

"Sometimes these things happen in games, but I thought what they did, what their organization did, was special," Jeter said. "And that's what I'm trying to focus on."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Zobrist's walk-off hit in ninth plates game's lone run

Colome, bullpen stifle Yankees, notch Rays' MLB-best 21st shutout

Zobrist's walk-off hit in ninth plates game's lone run play video for Zobrist's walk-off hit in ninth plates game's lone run

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' offense waited until the last minute to produce, and when they did, one run proved to be enough in a 1-0 walk-off win over the Yankees on Monday night at Tropicana Field.

The Rays claimed their 21st shutout, extending their club record and passing St. Louis (20) for the most in the Major Leagues.

"Really well-pitched on both sides and what's that, our second 1-0 win in several days now," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who included Friday night's 1-0 win over the Blue Jays. "So, good stuff and it also indicates the fight in our group."

After 8 1/2 scoreless innings, the Rays finally got busy with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Logan Forsythe singled to left off Shawn Kelley and James Loney followed with a single to center to put runners at first and second. Kelley then struck out pinch-hitter David DeJesus before pinch-hitter Matt Joyce walked to load the bases for Ben Zobrist.

Entering the game, Zobrist was 0-for-11 with the bases loaded this season and 1-for-20 since the start of 2013. This time Zobrist came through, lining a 1-1 fastball into right field for the walk-off win.

"Matty had a good at-bat to get it to me and I was fortunate that I got that fastball in the middle of the plate and was able to get it out there," Zobrist said. "You've got to be thankful in those situations any way you can get them and I was just fortunate to come up in that situation and be able to get it done this time."

Zobrist's fifth career walk-off hit was his first since July 10, 2013, when he defeated the Twins with an RBI single in the 13th.

Entering the game, Kelley had allowed one earned run in 9 2/3 innings in nine appearances against the Rays this season.

"Every time we pitch, the game's on the line," Kelley said. "I've got to go out there and put up a zero, whether it's nothing-nothing or 10-nothing."

Tampa Bay righty Alex Colome started after being recalled from Triple-A Durham and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless frames before finding two-out trouble in the seventh.

Ichiro Suzuki doubled and John Ryan Murphy walked to chase Colome. Right-hander Steve Geltz took over to face Brian McCann, and the recent callup retired McCann on a weak popout to center field to end the threat.

Colome threw a career-high 113 pitches in his fifth career start, paralleling the excellence displayed by Nathan Karns, who made his first Rays start Friday night. Karns got the decision in a 1-0 Rays win and his performance, along with Colome's, bodes well for the future.

Colome "was really good and we just had Nathan do almost the same thing the other night," Maddon said. "... He had really good stuff. He threw a strike when he had to. And that was a big part of his success tonight. [Colome] and Nathan did the same thing. You're always looking for starting pitching depth."

Colome is out of options, so the Rays are looking at him as a starter or a bullpen piece.

"Next year, I don't have an option -- I have to be better than ever," Colome said. "But the only thing I want is that they give me the ball. And I do what I can do."
 
While Colome had a strong outing, Yankees starter Chris Capuano showed tangible improvement over his last start against the Rays. Wednesday night in the Bronx, the Yankees' left-hander came away with a no-decision after allowing four earned runs in only one-third of an inning. Monday night, he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing two hits and four walks while striking out four.

"It's called baseball," said Maddon of the the difference in Capuano. "I thought he was more aggressive in with his fastball against our righties. I think that might have been the difference."

After Geltz's work in the seventh, Jeff Beliveau, Kirby Yates and Joel Peralta held the Yankees scoreless over the final two innings, with Peralta gaining his third win of the season.

Monday night's win gave the Rays their third win in four games to move to 73-78. Tampa Bay needs go 9-2 to finish with its seventh consecutive winning record, or 8-3 to go .500, which would be quite an achievement considering the team once stood 18 games below that mark.

"I'm still looking for us to get back to .500," Maddon said. "We still have the opportunity to be the first team to be 18 under .500 and get back to .500 in the same season. ... So there's still some realistic, tangible goals to be met. That one would be kind of impressive."

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

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Trio of callups out to make an impression on Rays

Colome, Riefenhauser back, while Franklin makes club debut Tuesday

Trio of callups out to make an impression on Rays play video for Trio of callups out to make an impression on Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' latest round of callups -- starter Alex Colome, reliever C.J. Riefenhauser and infielder Nick Franklin -- made their way to the clubhouse Monday, before the series opener against the Yankees at Tropicana Field.

Colome and Riefenhauser have had stints with the club this season, but Franklin has been at Triple-A Durham since being acquired in the July 31 David Price trade. The trio will get the chance to make an impression with the Rays as they are worked into the lineup, rotation and bullpen over the season's last few weeks.

Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays hope to get Colome at least another start after Monday, but he could be used in relief before then to get Nate Karns another start after he made his Rays debut Friday.

"We wouldn't necessarily force [Colome] out of the 'pen, but if there's a chance to stay active and sharp by coming out of the 'pen, we'll do that," Maddon said.

Maddon said Franklin would start Tuesday at second base, where he will likely see action during the final few weeks.

"We need to see him," Maddon said.

Franklin, who plays mainly second base and shortstop, batted .210 in 27 games with the Bulls -- but he hit .424 in the Triple-A playoffs.

"I'm looking forward to getting to know the guys and getting familiar with our surroundings more than anything, and getting out there when the time comes," Franklin said. "Ever since I was traded over, I had a rough start. I was just trying to get off ground zero. So me trying to work in the cage or whatever it was, getting that experience with the team helps me overall."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rays answer Jays' comeback with 10-inning win

Rodriguez plates go-ahead run in extras after Toronto ties it in ninth

Rays answer Jays' comeback with 10-inning win play video for Rays answer Jays' comeback with 10-inning win

TORONTO -- If the Rays aren't going to make the playoffs, they can ruin the chances of other teams. That seems to be the team's mantra heading into the final stretch of the season. Sunday afternoon's 6-5 Rays win over the Blue Jays in 10 innings certainly didn't help the Blue Jays' cause.

The Rays entered Sunday's action four games away from being eliminated from the AL Wild Card race -- and the Blue Jays were four games out of a Wild Card spot -- but Tampa Bay showed postseason intensity from the start.

After seeing their fourth 4-0 lead of the road trip disappear when the Blue Jays tied the game at 5 on John Mayberry's homer in the ninth inning, the Rays got back to work in the 10th and managed to pick up the pieces.

Wil Myers drew a leadoff walk from Brandon Morrow, and Logan Forsythe followed with a single to right to put runners at first and third. Brett Cecil took over for Morrow and walked the first batter he faced, Yunel Escobar.

Sean Rodriguez then hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field that scored Myers, and that turned into the winning run.

But the Rays weren't ready to board the team charter back to the Tampa Bay area just yet. They needed three outs, and they had to be extracted from the top of the Blue Jays' order.

Brandon Gomes started the 10th for the Rays, and after striking out Jose Reyes swinging for the first out, he fell behind, 3-0, to the always dangerous Jose Bautista.

Gomes talked to catcher Ryan Hanigan at that point, and the pitcher told him he wanted to continue trying to "keep going away."

With the raucous crowd of 28,633 thinking long ball from Joey Bats, Gomes got him to pop out in foul territory for the second out of the inning.

"Something away from his barrel," Gomes said. "Trying to get that four-seam down and away to [Bautista]. I kind of had an idea he would be swinging 3-0, so I couldn't just lay one in there. I mean, 0-0, 3-0, I was throwing with the same intent, and he popped it up and it stayed in."

Making the catch wasn't easy, but Hanigan hauled it in, falling to his backside in the process.

"It looked like [the ball] was way in the stands," Gomes said. "I don't know if the wind brought it back or the spin, but [Hanigan] made a great play on it."

With one out to go and the left-handed hitting Adam Lind stepping to the plate, Rays manager Joe Maddon elected to call on southpaw Jeff Beliveau. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons countered with a right-handed pinch-hitter, Kevin Pillar.

Beliveau threw all fastballs until Pillar popped up the fifth one on a 1-2 count. Forsythe made the catch at second to end the game, and Beliveau had his first Major League save.

Sunday's game "shows what kind of team we have, what kind of offense we have," Beliveau said. "To give it up and come right back and pick our bullpen up."

Maddon complimented the way his team continues to play, given their position. And he liked the team's grit on Sunday.

The Rays built a 4-0 advantage with some early work against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle when they scored two in the third and two in the fourth, highlighted by Ben Zobrist's 10th home run of the season.

Chris Archer started for the Rays and blanked the Blue Jays through six innings, before Edwin Encarnacion led off the seventh with his 32nd home run of the season. The Blue Jays couldn't get anything else against Archer, who struck out nine and should have come away with his 10th win of the season, only to finish with a no-decision.

In the top of the eighth, Escobar answered the Toronto fans' taunting with his seventh home run of the season, a well-struck blast into the left-field stands. The Rays' shortstop, who normally makes a safe sign when he touches home, then executed a more pronounced safe sign in his own version of "sticks and stones" when he touched the plate with the Rays' fifth run.

"I have no problem with [the treatment by Blue Jays fans]," Escobar said. "I come here and I enjoy playing. They're great fans. I have no problem with the fans, and I just want to come here and play and help our team win."

Lind's three-run homer off Grant Balfour in the eighth cut the Rays' lead to 5-4. Jake McGee then got first two outs of the ninth before surrendering the pinch-hit homer to Mayberry that tied the game at 5.
 
"This time of year, where we're at, there's really no room for error," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "It's always tough, too, when you battle back and it's one of those games where not much is happening, and you come back, strike quick, and now the momentum's on your side, and everyone is upbeat and you come back and end up dropping it like that, those are always tough."

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

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Kiermaier's manufactured run highlights his hustle

Outfielder took second on throw, scored on wild pitch in Saturday's game

Kiermaier's manufactured run highlights his hustle play video for Kiermaier's manufactured run highlights his hustle

TORONTO -- Kevin Kiermaier continues to impress with his hustle. In Saturday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays, he singled to right to lead off the third and took second after Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista threw behind him.

"I knew if I made a big turn and got my shuffles, kept everything square, I could make a decision to go either way," Kiermaier said. "... Bautista likes to throw, and I like to run. I liked my chances right there. Big turn, second baseman was over. I think about this all the time. I wish I could do it more. But there's no way the right fielder is going to throw all the way to first base and the first baseman is going to throw me out at second."

Kiermaier's heads-up play paid off, as he moved to third on a groundout, then scored the Rays' second run when R.A. Dickey uncorked a knuckleball that went to the backstop.

Kiermaier thought about the possibility of making such a play prior to it actually taking place.

"Bautista has a cannon, and I expected him to throw to first right there," Kiermaier said. "And he did, and that worked out in my favor right there."

Kiermaier knows the thinking of a right fielder with a strong arm since he is the same creature. He smiled when asked if he might fall for the same play.

"Yeah, I hope not," Kiermaier said. "Who knows, you don't see that very often."

Rays manager Joe Maddon loves Kiermaier's aggressiveness and does not want to do anything to reign it in, even though it occasionally gets him into trouble.

"There's going to be that next moment that comes up when [Kiermaier] does something like that and he gets caught and everybody's going to call for his head," Maddon said. "And that's my point -- you don't want to coach aggressiveness out of a good athlete. He's a young player. [Saturday afternoon] he made a great play. Had it turned out differently, public opinion would have turned against him.

"But I like what he's doing. He's young. He's going to keep learning to do those things and make less mistakes with those moments. So I'm all for it. And again, I'm telling you: Don't coach the aggressiveness out of a good athlete. You'll be sorry."

Kiermaier appreciates Maddon's approach.

"Yeah, it's great," Kiermaier said. "They tell me if you're going to make a mistake, make an aggressive one. It's nice, because they don't want us to be passive. They want us to be aggressive on the bases."

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

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Two challenges go Blue Jays' way in loss to Rays

Two challenges go Blue Jays' way in loss to Rays play video for Two challenges go Blue Jays' way in loss to Rays

TORONTO -- A pair of challenges in the Rays' 6-5, 10-inning win over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon went in Toronto's favor.

With two outs in the third inning, Brandon Guyer lined a ball down the right-field line off Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle and tried to stretch the hit into a triple with a hard slide into third.

Jose Bautista fielded the ball and threw to second baseman Ryan Goins, who fired to third baseman Danny Valencia. Rays manager Joe Maddon challenged the call, believing that Guyer's foot snuck under Valencia's tag.

Tom Hallion's umpiring crew confirmed the call on the field after a 1 minute and 10 second review.

The Rays have had 44 instant replay challenges this season. Of those, 18 have been overturned, 13 have stood and 13 have been confirmed.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was successful in challenging a missed fan interference call in the top of the eighth inning.

Rays batter Logan Forsythe led off the inning with a pop fly into foul territory that was tracked by Bautista, who hustled across the foul line to make the catch on a playable ball. But a fan reached up and made the catch instead.  

The ball was initially ruled foul, but after a 1 minute and 56 second review, the call was overturned and Forsythe was ruled out.

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

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked play video for Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Colome among three Durham callups

Right-hander set to start vs. Yankees on Monday

Colome among three Durham callups play video for Colome among three Durham callups

TORONTO -- Following Triple-A Durham's 4-1 loss to Pawtucket in the International League Championship game on Saturday night, the Rays opted to add three players from Durham for Monday's game: Right-hander Alex Colome, infielder Nick Franklin, and left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser.

Colome will start against the Yankees on Monday. He last pitched Game 2 of the International League Championship Series. He did not get in a decision in the Bulls' 4-3 win.

In addition to Monday night's start, Maddon noted that he hopes to get Colome some work in the bullpen to see what he looks like as a reliever.

Riefenhauser had a stint with the Rays earlier this season, and Franklin came to the organization from the Mariners in the three-team deal that sent David Price to the Tigers.

When asked if Franklin would see some work at shortstop as well as second base, Maddon noted: "Right now, just second. We want to get a decent look."

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

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Shaky 'pen, faulty defense hurt in loss to Jays

Hellickson K's eight in six frames; Lind homers off Boxberger

Shaky 'pen, faulty defense hurt in loss to Jays play video for Shaky 'pen, faulty defense hurt in loss to Jays

TORONTO -- A lock-down reliever couldn't lock it down, and a Gold Glove Award-winning pitcher couldn't field his position Saturday afternoon, which added up to a 6-3 Rays loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

The game moved into the bottom of the seventh tied at 3 when Brad Boxberger entered the game. The Rays' right-hander, who has been one of the team's most reliable bullpen weapons this season, was making his first appearance since surrendering a two-run homer to Martin Prado in the Rays' 5-4 loss to the Yankees on Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Rays, Boxberger couldn't right the ship.

After striking out Jose Reyes, Boxberger issued a walk to Jose Bautista. Adam Lind followed with a blast that cleared the wall in left-center field.

"I just left it up," Boxberger said. "I wasn't locating today, or really the last couple of outings."

Boxberger identified the pitch as a changeup, and when asked what he was trying to do, he said: "Not throw it there. I left it way up."

Lind, who has not had a big power year, did not take his fifth home run for granted.

"I guess I hit it to the right part of the ballpark," Lind said. "I just kept sprinting. I think it's been since June since I hit a home run, which is about the longest in my life, since my first home run. It's nice to join the party. I get a little bit of grief, but I think Edwin [Encarnacion] and Jose have enough for everyone."

Rays manager Joe Maddon wasn't about to throw Boxberger under the bus, given the year the right-hander has had.

"Listen, this guy's been like, money, all year," Maddon said. "Eleven out of 10 times I want him in that spot. It didn't play tonight. I give them some credit."

Steve Geltz took over for Boxberger, and Encarnacion greeted the rookie right-hander with an upper-deck homer to left, giving the slugger his 31st home run of the season while pushing the lead to 6-3.

The three-run loss was not representative of the way the contest started.

Ben Zobrist led off the game with a double to left off R.A. Dickey and moved to third on a groundout. Evan Longoria then grounded to short to score Zobrist for a 1-0 Rays lead.

The offensive mojo carried over to defense when Longoria made the play of the game on Danny Valencia's shot down the third-base line leading off the second. The Rays' third baseman dove to backhand the ball then threw from his knees to one-hop the ball to first baseman James Loney for the out.

More offense followed against the always tough Dickey. Kevin Kiermaier singled to right to lead off the third and took second after he made a big turn and Blue Jays right fielder Bautista threw behind him. Kiermaier moved to third on a groundout, then scored the Rays' second run when Dickey uncorked a knuckleball that went to the backstop.

But the Rays' un-doing began in the bottom half of the third, when Ryan Goins struck out but reached first on a wild pitch by Jeremy Hellickson. Anthony Gose followed with a single to center, before Reyes put down a bunt single that Hellickson threw wild to first. Goins scored on the play, and then Bautista drove home Gose with an infield single off Hellickson's glove. Lind grounded into a fielder's choice to drive home Reyes, giving the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead.

"An error by me, and me not being able to field my position, period," said Hellickson, who won a Gold Glove in 2012. "That was pretty embarrassing. Those plays have to be made."

Longoria evened the score with a solo home run off Dickey in the sixth, giving Longoria 21 for the season.

Dickey got his 13th win of the season, with the Blue Jays' knuckleballer serving up his normal dose of frustration. That frustration spilled over after Dickey had left the game, when Matt Joyce struck out against Casey Janssen in the ninth, then strongly expressed his distaste of the strike zone to home-plate umpire Paul Nauert. Accordingly, Joyce was ejected.

While Hellickson didn't field his position well, he had good stuff, allowing two earned runs in six innings, walking four and striking out eight en route to a no-decision.
 
"A couple of uncharacteristic mistakes by [Hellickson], but ultimately we put it in the hands of a guy that's been one of our best, in Box, and he made a mistake and Lind capitalized on it," Longoria said. "It's a rough way to go."

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

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Rays see glimpse of future in Karns' scoreless debut

Rookie struck out eight, gave up just two hits in seven innings vs. Jays

Rays see glimpse of future in Karns' scoreless debut play video for Rays see glimpse of future in Karns' scoreless debut

TORONTO -- Friday night, Nathan Karns became the first Rays rookie pitcher to throw seven shutout innings and allow two hits or fewer in his Rays debut. He also tied Steve Trachsel for the longest scoreless outing in a Rays debut.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Karns is the third starting pitcher over the last eight seasons (since 2007) whose first career win was in a 1-0 shutout, joining Miami's Alex Sanabia and Kansas City's Bryan Bullington.

Karns came to the Rays in the February deal that sent catcher Jose Lobaton to the Nationals. Friday night he used 114 pitches to post seven zeros, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight. He made three starts for the Nationals in 2013, posting an 0-1 mark with a 7.50 ERA. He allowed that he is now a "little more polished."

"Kind of learning hitters' approach," said Karns, when asked to explain the areas in which he has grown. "How important it is to mix pitches in certain counts. Really just growing comfortable pitching to quality hitters."

Karns said that he was "more of a thrower than a pitcher" last season.

"I had success, but that was at the lower levels," Karns said. "This year was more about being able to repeat and locate and change my mechanics and be more efficient."

Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey saw a snapshot of Karns during Spring Training, and he noticed some improvements since he last saw the right-hander.

"He's developed his changeup a little bit down there," Hickey said. "He didn't use it extensively [Friday], but that's a big part of what's going to be needed for his repertoire. I think that's something that he's done.

"Delivery-wise, he looks pretty consistent. He's got a couple of issues like anybody would, that you can probably clean up a little bit more. But overall, I like the progress that he's made."

Hickey was asked if Karns' performance should get fans excited about his future.

"I think certainly," Hickey said. "Just the same way when any of the other young guys came up, going back to the Jeremy Hellicksons, the Wade Davises -- all the guys that have come after them.

"So obviously, if [Karns] was sought after by us, they saw something that led them to believe he could be a good pitcher, and you saw a glimpse of that last night."

Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed.

"That's the old scouting adage: If he shows it to you once, he can show it to you again," Maddon said. "There's no question he has the ability. Now it's a matter of repetition with delivery, being able to throw a strike when he wants to, commanding his curveball. ... The velocity was up. ... That was pretty impressive. God bless him, that was good stuff."

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

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Maddon: Escobar's strong finish important for offseason

Shortstop hit his way into record books Thursday with two homers at Yankee Stadium

Maddon: Escobar's strong finish important for offseason play video for Maddon: Escobar's strong finish important for offseason

TORONTO -- Yunel Escobar hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his career during Thurday night's 5-4 loss to the Yankees. He became the second shortstop in Rays history to do so, joining Julio Lugo, who did it three times (most recently on July 22, 2006, against Baltimore).

In addition, Escobar became just the second visiting shortstop to have a multi-home run game at the new Yankee Stadium (Jose Reyes hit two for the Mets on July 19, 2010) and just the seventh shortstop to do it at either the new or old Yankee Stadium.

Rays manager Joe Maddon believes that a strong finish by Escobar could be beneficial to Escobar and the team.

"To have him finish well, it's going to be a positive for all of us, because I know his offseason will work better," Maddon said. "The way he's going to process the offseason, the work he's going to do -- it'll matter. Again, he's going to process emotion more than anybody, so get him to finish well. I think's going to help him and help us in the long term.

"He's actually been playing pretty well recently. Yesterday, the two homers, that second one was really far. It's unfortunate it happened in a loss. But he's starting to look pretty good."

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

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Karns fans eight in dazzling debut for Rays

Rookie gives up two hits in seven scoreless; Hanigan goes yard

Karns fans eight in dazzling debut for Rays play video for Karns fans eight in dazzling debut for Rays

TORONTO -- Nathan Karns got an early lift then brought the heat Friday night, providing a nice glimpse into the future for Rays fans in a 1-0 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Karns, who came to the Rays in the February trade that sent catcher Jose Lobaton to the Nationals, made his first Rays start after spending the season at Triple-A Durham. The right-hander got off to a less than auspicious beginning when he walked Jose Reyes then hit Jose Baustista before Evan Longoria gave him an assist.

Edwin Encarnacion chopped one to third. Longoria fielded the ball, stepped on the bag and threw across his body to first to complete the 5-3 double play. Karns then walked Adam Lind, but retired Dioner Navarro on a grounder to first to end the inning -- 25 pitches after it began.

"That was huge for me," Karns said. "I walked a guy. I hit a guy. And then the double-play ball, two outs, execute a few pitches, get out of the inning, so that was big for me as well."

With the first inning in the rearview mirror, Karns let his fastball do the talking, settling into a nice rhythm while his heater blistered the strike zone.

The Blue Jays did not get their first hit until two outs into the fourth, when Danny Valencia doubled to left on a ball that landed just outside the reach of diving left fielder Brandon Guyer.

Karns recovered nicely by striking out Kevin Pillar, who watched strike three to end the inning.

All told, Karns used 114 pitches to post seven zeroes, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight en route to his first Major League win. Of the 25 pitches he threw in the first, only 11 went for strikes. Of the next 89, 61 were strikes.

"You didn't know what was going to happen in the first inning, quite frankly," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But I'm always looking at what kind of swings Bautista is getting. What kind of swings is Encarnacion getting? I want to see what kind of swings those guys are getting to really be an indicator of what his stuff was like. And I didn't think they saw him that good."

Karns, who enjoyed the beer shower in the clubhouse following his first Major League win, made three starts for the Nationals in 2013, posting an 0-1 mark with a 7.50 ERA. He allowed that he is now a "little more polished."

"A little more under control," Karns said. "... It was nice to sharpen my skills in Triple-A and then come back out here and do it again."

Ryan Hanigan caught the team's 20th shutout of the season and sounded especially pleased to be in harmony with the rookie.

"It was good, it was fun. I had a good time working with him tonight," Hanigan said.

In addition to serving Karns well from behind the plate, Hanigan delivered the only offense provided by either squad when he homered to left off Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ in the third inning, his fifth home run of the season.

Happ "was kind of challenging some guys the first two innings -- I was watching," Hanigan said. "So I wanted to be aggressive and in came in there and it worked out."

Jake McGee recovered nicely after surrendering a walk-off, three-run homer to Chris Young Thursday night in New York by pitching a scoreless eighth. Grant Balfour followed by retiring the Blue Jays in order in the ninth to pick up his 12th save of the season and first since July 1. He now has 6 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings under his belt.

"You know that the guy's gone out there and pitched a [nice] game, the last thing you want to do is sort of ruin that," Balfour said. "A great win for the team and obviously, congratulations to Nate for his first big league win."

The Rays managed just two hits on the night and the Blue Jays matched that total.

Karns "was great tonight," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Happ was great, and the difference was that solo home run. If you love good pitching, you saw it."

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

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Maddon stresses professionalism after elimination

Maddon stresses professionalism after elimination

TORONTO -- Tampa Bay officially got eliminated from the American League East race Thursday night after taking a 5-4 loss to the Yankees. Rays manager Joe Maddon doesn't like his team's situation, but he stressed the importance of remaining professional under difficult circumstances.

"I'm always impressed with that guy," Maddon said. "I'm always impressed with that guy when things aren't necessarily working out well for you. Everybody can look good when things are going good. I like the guy who can look good when it's not going so well. Especially when it's going badly for them personally, and they can come out and still show you why they are Major Leaguers and professional baseball players."

Maddon noted that everybody needs to remember that "we've always wanted to do this."

"I'm in Yankee Stadium two nights ago, we had the lead and we lost the lead, and you have a lot of different thoughts going on in your head," Maddon said. "I'm thinking to myself, where else would I rather be on Sept. 10, 2014? Based on where I grew up -- to not take advantage of every moment you have to be here and understand that you're out here and people are paying to see you play. Maybe there's some kids in the stands you may influence. You try to do it right every night, regardless of the circumstances."

Maddon was asked if having a setback this season might serve as motivation for the Rays going forward.

"It's probably true, but you hate it at the same time," Maddon said. "I'm here to remind you that I don't like it. Not for a second. It's very unusual territory for us ... and I don't like it. And I hope our players don't like it as much as I don't like it. And I think they feel the same way. It can serve as motivation. There's no question. But it's difficult because we're good.

"We've been good for a long period of time. We put ourselves in a position that's nobody's fault but our own. But I still don't like it. It's different. To not really be in the thick of things right now is upsetting."

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

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