Yankees Lose To Rays, A.L. East Lead Just 1 Game

September 3, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (13) scratches his head while on deck to in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Yankees 4-3 on Monday to push New York's lead in the AL East to just one game.

The New York Yankees opened their series at Tropicana Field with a 4-3 Labor Day loss to the Rays. The win pulled Tampa Bay within 2.5 games of the Yankees, and within one game of the Orioles. New York, which was coming off a weekend series loss to Baltimore, was starting a 10-game road trip with CC Sabathia on the hill. But it was once again the Yankee offense which went quiet, mounting a three-run rally in the fourth inning and failing to score the rest of the game.

Rays starter James Shields settled in after the rally, pitching through the eighth and handing things off to lights-out closer Fernando Rodney. Shields gave up just five hits, four of which came during the rally in the fourth inning. Rodney then came on in the ninth and closed the door for his 41st save, tied for most in MLB with Baltimore's Jim Johnson. The ninth did not come without drama, however, as an error by Elliot Johnson put Eric Chavez on base. Pinch runner Eduardo Nunez would swipe second and move to third on a ground out, but Rodney would strand him there with a strikeout of Curtis Granderson to preserve the win.

Sabathia was solid for the Yankees as well, but did not get the run support. The big lefty danced around eight hits and two walks to allow three runs, giving way to his bullpen with the game knotted at 3-3. With Sabathia out, the Rays quickly broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out rally against David Robertson. Ryan Roberts, a late-season acquisition, did the damage. Roberts singled to left off Robertson and promptly stole second. Chris Gimenez then stepped into the box and sent one just under the glove of Robinson Cano. Cano came up lame on the play, saying he felt a twinge in his hip. The ground ball died on the turf and easily scored Roberts from second for the 4-3 lead.

Alex Cobb will now try to clinch the series for the Rays on Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Freddy Garcia, who will look to keep the Yankees one game up in the standings.

For more on the Yankees, visit Pinstripe Alley and SB Nation New York. For more on the Rays, check out DRaysBay and SB Nation Tampa Bay.

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