NEW YORK – – After 161 games, the New York Yankees still need one more win.
No easy task against Brandon Lowe and a 100-game Tampa Bay team that is a thorn in the side.
Lowe hit three home runs and the Rays lost 12-2 to New York, which kept the Yankees from clinching a playoff berth on Saturday. Instead, they fell to tie with Boston atop the AL wildcard standings.
With a chance to kick his team into the playoffs, New York starter Jordan Montgomery was instead shaken up for the seven career-worst earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. He gave up a pair of three-run homers to Lowe, who also went far in the seventh against Michael King.
Even with the embarrassing loss to a booing crowd of 41,648 home spectators, the Yankees (91-70) can still snag their ticket to AL on Sunday with a victory over Tampa Bay in the scheduled final of the regular season.
Another defeat, and it becomes risky.
“We have to win. It’s that simple, ”said veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. “Here we enter Game 162 without knowing what the future is.
“It’s not ideal. But it’s good to know that we still have a chance, ”he added. “The way the season has gone, it makes sense that it boils down to the very last day. It looks about right.
New York is assured of at least one tiebreaker next week that could put the team in the playoffs for the fifth straight season. But after dropping out of the first two games of this series, the Yankees are no longer in control of their own destiny to accommodate the wild-card game. Now they need a loss to Boston to do it.
The Red Sox beat Washington 5-3 to tie with the Yankees. Toronto is one game behind them, with Seattle potentially in the playoff mix heading into Sunday.
“It’s just a bad day for us and we have to get over it quickly,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Lowe struck in the eighth with the chance to tie the major league record of four home runs in a game. He escaped a 93 mph fastball from Joely Rodríguez who was well on the inside, then failed on first base.
Lowe and Mike Zunino scored back to back against Montgomery (6-7) in the third to bring the score to 7-1. Austin Meadows added a three-point shot in the seventh as the AL East Rays champion (100-61) reached 100 wins for the first time in team history.
“Very tall. Quite special,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “So proud of the guys, happy for them – 100 sounds better than 99.”
The reigning American League champions, who have already secured the field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, had never played 39 games over 0.500.
Zunino, Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco had three hits apiece for the budget Rays, who beat New York 19-4 and are no doubt determined to make it difficult for their big-budget rivals all weekend.
Arozarena hit base five times and Luis Patino (5-3) worked two innings without a hitting for the win.
Montgomery’s shortest outing this season marked the untimely end of a long streak.
The southpaw had allowed just one run in three straight starts and nine of his last 11 games, going 3-1 with a 2.26 ERA during that span. He was 1-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings in his last three outings and allowed three earned runs or less in 15 of his last 16 starts since. June 20.
“No one is perfect. They are going to happen,” he said. “I have to be better next time.
Lowe has gone far in his last three games, and his career-high seven RBIs have given him 99 this season. He increased his career-best total to 39 home runs with his first three home game in the majors.
“I would love to get to 40 and 100,” Lowe said.
“It was cool. The first one was probably my favorite of the day,” he added. “The other two were just sort of icing on the cake.”
It was his sixth career multihomer game and his fourth this year.
“What a day. What a season he’s put in. Today was pretty special,” Cash said.
Anthony Rizzo scored for the Yankees and Gio Urshela had a triple RBI.
Rays: With Cash looking to rest 1B Ji-Man Choi and INF Joey Wendle, wide receiver Francisco Mejía made his career debut at first base.
Yankees: 3B DJ LeMahieu missed his second straight game with a sports hernia that will require surgery in the offseason, but the two-time batting champion will try to overcome the injury in October. He received a cortisone injection on Friday and the team are hoping he can return to the roster on Sunday … 1B Luke Voit will likely be out for at least a few weeks with inflammation in his left knee. Voir, placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday, could potentially return later in October if the Yankees make enough progress in the playoffs, Boone said.
WHERE IS THE HUSTLE?
Montgomery was booed loudly, as was Gleyber Torres, who didn’t run hard first and was sent off after swinging and missing the third strike on ground that went all the way to the safety net in the seventh.
“First of all, you have to run,” Boone said. “He felt bad about it. “
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Tampa Bay has improved to 7-2 this season and 12-3 over the past two years at Yankee Stadium, where all other visiting teams are 32-64.
Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.40 ERA) is scheduled to start Sunday for the Yankees. He was recently bothered by a tendon injury in his right ankle, but successfully tested it in a bullpen Friday. RHP Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.26) going for Tampa Bay.