MLB

Rays magic number down to 2

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb
Alex Cobb helped the Rays shut out the Yankees on Thursday night.
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NEW YORK (AP)

The Tampa Bay Rays have achieved a milestone this year, even before reaching the playoffs.

For the first time in team history, Tampa Bay reached 90 regular-season wins for the fourth year in a row.

"That's outstanding, a great tribute to the organization from top to bottom," manager Joe Maddon said after the Rays beat the Yankees 4-0 Thursday night to stretch their winning streak to seven. "Having been a minor league runt myself, I can totally appreciate what everyone from A-to-Z ball and all the way up to Triple-A does for this organization."

On a night when Mariano Rivera made his final Yankee Stadium appearance, Tampa Bay maintained a one-game lead over Cleveland in the AL wild-card race and lowered to two its magic number over Texas for clinching a postseason berth. The Rays outscored the Yankees 19-3 during a three-game sweep.

After the game, the jovial Rays made rookies wear dresses for the flight to Toronto, part of a late-season ritual across the majors.

"There's no better time," said Evan Longoria, who drove in eight runs in the series. "I didn't think today together could go any better for us as far as the outcome of the game, being able to experience that whole thing and having the rookie dress-up on the same day. It's like we get the trifecta today."

Alex Cobb (11-3) took a one-hit shutout into the eighth, retiring 15 in a row between walks to Curtis Granderson in the second and Robinson Cano in the seventh.

"He's probably the most competitive pitcher I've ever seen," said James Loney, who had three hits.

Cobb wound up allowing three hits in seven innings-plus.

"Unbelievable. He's been lights out since he came back from the DL," Joel Peralta said after combining Jake McGee for two innings of hitless relief.

Longoria hit an RBI single in the fourth against Ivan Nova (9-6) and a two-run single off Dellin Betances in the eighth. Delmon Young hit a long solo homer to left-center in the sixth.

Tampa Bay has won 12 of 15 following a 4-13 slide.

"There's a really nice quiet confidence among them," Maddon said. "We've been on the verge of really getting over the hump and really getting the mindset in the right direction several times. But right now it's just a little bit different, it's a little bit better. They're really sniffing it, and that matters. And so you're seeing a higher level of mental play."

While the Rays close with three games at the Blue Jays, Texas plays its final three at the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland finishes with three at Minnesota.

Rivera, the 43-year-old closer in his final season, relieved with one out in the eighth and retired Young, Sam Fuld, Jose Lobaton and Yunel Escobar in order on 13 pitches. With two outs in the ninth, Yankees captain Derek Jeter and pitcher Andy Pettitte — who also is retiring — came to the mound to remove Rivera — who sobbed on their shoulders as they hugged him during an ovation that stretched for four minutes.

"That was really cool," Rays pitcher David Price said.

Tampa Bay players stood in front of their dugout, applauding, when Rivera entered the game and they wouldn't take the field for the bottom of the ninth until Pettitte came out for a curtain call.

"I was very proud of the way they came out of the dugout and were totally absorbed in the moment, paying tribute to the greatest closer ever," Maddon said. "This guy is going to be the greatest. He is the greatest."

NOTES: Escobar (sore left ankle) was in the original starting lineup, then was scratched. He entered in the seventh inning. ... Maddon wasn't sure whether RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) will pitch during the rest of the regular season.

Tagged: Yankees, Rays, Mariano Rivera

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