NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano doubled home two in the eighth to lead a 4-2 Yankees win over the Rays in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
By losing, the Rays (85-69) fell to 2 1/2 games behind the American League Wild Card-leading Red Sox, with each team scheduled to play Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the win allowed the Yankees to clinch their 16th postseason appearance in the last 17 seasons.
James Shields started for Tampa Bay and took a 2-1 lead into the eighth. But Eduardo Nunez led off the inning with his fifth home run of the season to tie the score.
"Changeup, [I] felt it was a good pitch, like he got it off the end of the bat," Shields said. "And unfortunately he hit it over the fence. I didn't think he got it."
One out later, Brett Gardner singled to left and stole second with Derek Jeter at the plate. Rays manager Joe Maddon lifted Shields after he walked Jeter, and he called in J.P. Howell to face Cano.
"Well, [Howell has] done really well against lefties, actually, this year," Maddon said. "And he's the one ground-ball pitcher that we have among the lefties. Cano's like 52 percent on the ground versus left-handers. So you have a 50-50 chance that he'll put the ball on the ground."
Howell fell behind in the count, 3-1, before Cano teed off on a curveball and hit it to deep center field to empty the bases and give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
"You can't do what I did; you have to make a pitch," Howell said. "I want to be known for that, not this. It's pretty easy; I fell behind. [I] gave him a pitch to hit and he did it. [I] can't do that."
Mariano Rivera then entered the game to silence the Rays in the ninth to preserve the win and earn his 44th save of the season.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said Shields, who took his 12th loss of the season. "A 2-1 ballgame, I have to do a better job in the eighth inning right there. That's my game right there. Obviously, the home run. But I've got to come back and get the job done."
On paper, the first game of the doubleheader appeared to favor the Rays, who sent their best pitcher to the mound against the Yankees, who started Hector Noesi. Tampa Bay knew that Noesi, a spot starter, would be on a pitch limit, which meant that it would get into New York's bullpen early.
The Yankees scored first when Alex Rodriguez doubled off Shields with two outs in the first inning to drive home Jeter for a 1-0 lead.
Elliot Johnson doubled to left off Noesi to lead off the Rays' third and scored on a home run by Desmond Jennings to put Tampa Bay up, 2-1.
A parade of Yankees pitchers then began entering from the New York bullpen starting with two outs in the third. Six pitchers followed Noesi before Rivera came into the game to start the ninth.
The Yankees' bullpen allowed no runs in 6 1/3 innings.
"When you're facing a starter that doesn't give up too many runs like Shields, you have to pitch," Jeter said. "We were able to do that."
Maddon complimented Shields for pitching well on Wednesday.
"We obviously have to score more than two runs," Maddon said. "You look at a game like that and you're immediately going to blame the latter part of the game. But we had chances against a variety of different pitchers to score more than we did. And that's really where the game was lost today."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.