Shields came within one out of his 12th complete game, yielding six hits. Kyle Farnsworth finished for his 24th save, closing it out moments before the Red Sox lost 6-3 at Baltimore. The Rays and Red Sox each have two games left.
B.J. Upton drove in two runs with a third-inning double off Hector Noesi. Kelly Shoppach homered for the second straight day for the Rays, who’ve won three in a row and are 15-8 since Sept. 2, when they trailed Boston by nine games.
Johnny Damon’s third-inning RBI single moved him into a tie with Lou Gehrig for 57th on the career hits list with 2,721.
Robinson Cano homered in the first and hit an RBI single in the third, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead against Shields, who allowed just five baserunners over the last six innings. The All-Star right-hander walked three and struck out four to win for the first time in three starts.
Shields (16-12) left after walking Eric Chavez. Farnsworth got Jesus Montero to ground out with a crowd of 18,772 on its feet.
ORIOLES 6, RED SOX 3
In Baltimore, Boston finally fell all the way back to pack, and now they’ve got only two games left to make it right.
The Red Sox found another way to lose, this time on a broken-bat single and an inside-the-park homer, and their defeat against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night dropped them into a tie in the AL wild-card race.
Boston’s 17th loss in 22 games enabled Tampa Bay to pull even in the duel for the league’s final playoff spot. The Rays, who beat the New York Yankees 5-2, trailed by nine games after play on Sept. 3.
The Red Sox had either stood atop the AL East or led the wild-card race every day since before play on May 24.
In spite of the epic collapse, Boston can squeeze into the playoffs by winning its last two games. Then, at worst, the Red Sox will face the Rays in a one-game playoff.
“We win every game, we’re in the playoffs,” right fielder Adrian Gonzalez said. “It’s definitely in our hands.”
Problem is, the Red Sox haven’t won two in a row since August.
“We’ve backed ourselves about as far as we can go,” manager Terry Francona said.
With the score 2-all in the sixth inning, Boston starter Josh Beckett (13-7) allowed four runs in an uprising that began with Vladimir Guerrero becoming the career hits leader among Dominican-born players.
Guerrero broke a tie with Julio Franco by bouncing a single up the middle, his 2,587th career hit. The 36-year-old Guerrero then stole second base, and after a two-out walk to Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis broke his bat hitting a soft liner to right that brought home the go-ahead run.
“I didn’t make pitches when I needed to,” Beckett said. “I tried to bounce a changeup to Davis there and I leave it up and he serves it to right field.”
Jed Lowrie homered for the Red Sox, whose September swoon includes four losses in five games against Baltimore.
Beckett allowed six runs and seven hits in six innings.