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Rays get best of Yanks as rivalry turns bitter

@juanctoribio
August 9, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Lowe grew up a Yankees fan in Virginia and his first career hit came at Yankee Stadium. But on Sunday he made it known that his Rays team is not going to back down against its division rival. “It’s pretty frustrating to have them think that

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Lowe grew up a Yankees fan in Virginia and his first career hit came at Yankee Stadium. But on Sunday he made it known that his Rays team is not going to back down against its division rival.

“It’s pretty frustrating to have them think that you’re not able to say anything back to them,” Lowe said. “They’ve been doing it the whole time and for us to not be able to do it back is a little childish.”

Box score

Lowe was referring to some back-and-forth between the two dugouts during the seventh inning of the Rays’ 4-3 win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field on Sunday.

After Lowe hit a solo home run off James Paxton to tie the game at 3 in the 7th inning, the Yankees’ dugout appeared to be yelling at the Rays’ infielder as he rounded third and headed for home. Based on what Lowe said, it appears the Rays began to chirp at the Yankees, which wasn’t received well by New York.

“They’ve been chirping the whole weekend and we chirped down once and they kind of got upset about it. That was really the whole thing,” Lowe said. “They’ve kind of been loud about everything. We did it back, and they didn’t like it.”

The recent history between the Rays and Yankees goes back to 2018, when CC Sabathia retaliated by hitting former Rays catcher Jesús Sucre after Andrew Kittredge threw a fastball over Austin Romine’s head. Last season, Sabathia was involved in some more chirping, that time with former Rays outfielder Avisaíl García.

Those recent arguments carried over into this weekend. On Saturday, Aaron Judge voiced his frustration with the Rays, saying his team didn’t like Tampa Bay pitchers constantly throwing up and in.

“That Sabathia stuff, that happened last year,” Lowe said. “You would think they moved past it like we have. I think it’s really just the competitive nature that’s between the two teams. Both of us are going to be fighting for the top spot in the AL East and once those competitive juices start flowing, people show their emotions.”

Though emotions were high over the weekend, it was the Rays who were able to get the best of the Yankees during a key four-game series, winning three of four.

The Rays entered the weekend with a 5-7 record, desperately needing to make up ground against the AL East-leading Yankees. With Sunday’s win, they did just that, ending the day only two games behind the Yanks with 44 games left to play.

“I don’t think anybody here believes we’ve played our best baseball,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “But we’ll certainly take the series that we just had against New York and maybe get us going in the right direction.”

Sunday’s win came via a walk-off single in the ninth by Michael Perez that helped the Rays complete the comeback after Michael Brosseau and Lowe went back to back in the 7th. Perhaps the only reason Perez stepped up to the plate with two on and two outs against Zack Britton was because he was the last catcher available on the roster. Mike Zunino was pulled for a pinch-hitter and Kevan Smith, who was the third catcher on the roster, was designated for assignment prior to Sunday’s game.

Regardless of the situation, Perez took full advantage of the opportunity. Perez, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Friday, also delivered a game-winning sac fly in Friday’s 1-0 win.

“That [hit] meant a lot to me because it was my first walk-off,” Perez said in Spanish. “I’ll never forget that at-bat, especially because it happened against the Yankees. I just didn’t try to do too much.”

The Rays now embark on their longest road trip of the season, a three-city jaunt that begins Monday in Boston. Tampa Bay hopes to carry the momentum, even despite the uncertainty surrounding Charlie Morton, who left Sunday’s start in the third inning with right shoulder inflammation.

“There’s not anybody in our dugout that feels very good knowing that Charlie is walking off the mound in the third inning. That’s deflating,” Cash said. “There’s no way around. It took us a couple innings to get going, but the guys stayed at it -- give them a ton of credit for the resolve that they continue to show.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.