NEW YORK -- Aaron Hicks robbed Wilson Ramos of a grand slam with an unbelievable catch, Jordan Montgomery settled in to complete six solid innings and Starlin Castro homered as the Yankees secured home-field advantage for a potential American League Wild Card Game with a 6-1 victory over the Rays
NEW YORK -- Aaron Hicks robbed Wilson Ramos of a grand slam with an unbelievable catch, Jordan Montgomery settled in to complete six solid innings and Starlin Castro homered as the Yankees secured home-field advantage for a potential American League Wild Card Game with a 6-1 victory over the Rays on Tuesday evening at Yankee Stadium.
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With the win, the Yankees closed within three games of the Red Sox in the AL East race. The Yanks have secured the first AL Wild Card, so if they do not catch Boston, the Wild Card Game would be played at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. ET. The loss officially eliminated the Rays from postseason contention.
"We'll just continue fighting and playing good," Castro said. "They've been playing good, too, because every time we've won, they've won. They lost today, we won. If we continue playing like we're playing, we'll see what happens."
Activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, Hicks made an immediate impact as he scaled the wall in right-center field at the 385-foot marker, bringing Ramos' first-inning drive back into the yard for a sacrifice fly.
• Hicks amazed his Yankees teammates with a grand slam robbery
"It kind of just happened. It was fun to be able to do that," Hicks said. "I thought he hit it pretty well, but it just kind of died for me. It gave me a great opportunity."
Castro homered as part of a four-run second inning against Rays starter Blake Snell, who was unable to retire any of the six men he faced in the frame.
"Hicks makes just a tremendous play," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Yeah, we pick up one, but off the bat, we're probably thinking we're getting four or multiple. Heck of a play. Probably allowed [Montgomery] to settle in."
Backed by the rally, which included bases-loaded walks by Hicks and Aaron Judge, Montgomery stabilized his case for a relief role on the postseason roster by limiting the Rays to a run on six hits over a six-inning outing. Montgomery walked one and struck out five in the 79-pitch effort, winning for the second time in two starts. The Yankees have won 17 of 24 games in September.
"I just stopped trying to force my arm through," Montgomery said. "Especially in that first inning, I've just got to settle in. Once I just let the ball come out of my hand and let the grip take control, I can usually control it and not force it too much."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Gift of grab: After the first three Rays had reached base against Montgomery, Hicks supplied a late contender for the Yanks' top catch of the season as he tracked down Ramos' deep drive to right-center, leaping at the wall and snowconing the baseball in front of the New York bullpen. Hicks' defensive effort -- as well as his three walks -- could help him earn playing time as the Yankees attempt to finalize their postseason roster. More >
"As soon as I hit the ball, I hit the ball well, but not enough," Ramos said. "He jumped and stole that homer, but that's part of the game. You have to keep your head up and keep going. That was a great play. All the credit for him on that play."
Wild thing: Snell's big league debut came here in The Bronx on April 23, 2016, when he held the Yanks to a run on two hits over five innings. Suffice it to say, he'll remember this outing less fondly. After Castro's 15th homer of the season, Snell permitted three straight hits before issuing a five-pitch walk to Hicks that forced in a run. A mound visit followed, and Snell walked Judge on four pitches to force home another run before an early call to the bullpen. It was Snell's first loss since July 24 against the Orioles.
"Getting pulled after one inning surprised me, but I should be able to adjust mid-game and fix it, and figure it out right away,'' Snell said. "So I was more upset with that."
"It's really important. There's nothing better than home, especially how good we play at this field. It's pretty good to have that game over here." -- Castro, on the Yankees locking up home-field advantage if they play in the AL Wild Card Game
COBB WON'T PITCH FINALE
Right-hander Alex Cobb was scheduled to start on Thursday against the Yankees. But now that the Rays' postseason hopes have been dashed, Jake Faria will start the series finale.
"He's made his last start," Cash said. "He's had a really really good year. He's totally fine to pitch, but I think it's in his best interest not to given where his inning workload is, and let Jake Faria make that start. He's deserving to make that start."
With Gary Sanchez batting in the eighth inning, umpire Dan Bellino halted the game to eject a fan seated behind home plate who was shouting out pitch locations to the Yankees, based upon where Ramos was setting up.
"Everybody's supposed to hit the ball and react to pitches. If you have somebody telling you where the ball is going it's more easy," Ramos said. "To me, it's like cheating. He was saying 'Away, away, away' in Spanish."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was the first time that he has heard of such behavior at Yankee Stadium. Sanchez said that he heard the fan's words.
"You could definitely hear the guy scream, 'Outside! Outside!'" Sanchez said. "But you don't know if it's going to be a slider or a fastball. You've got to stick to your plan, whatever approach you have, whatever plan you have when you're facing the pitcher. You want to maintain and focus on that, and not whatever people are screaming out there."
Rays: Right-hander Matt Andriese (5-4, 4.44 ERA) will get the nod on Wednesday in the middle game of the series against the Yankees at 7:05 p.m. ET. Andriese is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts at Yankee Stadium.
Yankees: Right-hander Luis Severino (13-6, 3.03) will make his final tuneup before a potential start in the AL Wild Card Game when he faces the Rays on Wednesday. Severino is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA in nine career games (five starts) against Tampa Bay.
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Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.