Rodriguez hit his first home run for the Yankees, but the Tampa Bay Devil Rays roughed up Mussina and overcame an early four-run deficit for a 9-4 victory Tuesday night.
“We talked about that all spring. We’re going to score runs. Not that we’re not going to have problems at times, but certainly we need to rely on our pitching,” Torre said Tuesday night after
Victor Zambrano gave up the first-inning home run to Rodriguez and another to Gary Sheffield, then found a way to keep the rest of the Yankees’ powerful lineup quiet, beating the defending AL champions for the second time this season.
“It looked like it was going to be a big day for us offensively,” Rodriguez said. “We were just a hit short of blowing it open.”
Mussina (0-2) also lost last week’s season opener to Zambrano in Japan, where the Devil Rays and Yankees split a pair of games before returning to Florida to resume their spring training schedule.
“It’s frustrating,” Mussina said. “I felt good out there. I made bad pitches.”
The right-hander allowed nine runs and six runs in four innings.
Tuesday night’s re-opener drew a crowd of 41,755, announced as just the second home sellout in Devil Rays history, even though it fell well short of the 45,369 that turned out for the expansion club’s inaugural game at Tropicana Field in 1998.
Zambrano (2-0) fell behind 4-0 on two-run homers by Rodriguez and Sheffield. A-Rod went the other way with his, the ball barely clearing the right-field wall.
“The opening day (victory) in Japan was real nice, but this one tops it. You do it in front of your home crowd and show the people of Tampa Bay this team is a legitimate team,” Tampa Bay’s Aubrey Huff said. “We’re going to be competitive and we’re going to play with a lot of good teams out there in the American League.”
After giving up three runs, six hits and walking one in six innings to beat the Yankees 8-3 last week, Zambrano looked more like the pitcher who struggled last year to consistently get the ball over the plate.
He struck out five in five innings, but also allowed a career-high seven walks, hit a batter and had a wild pitch. He threw 90 pitches, just 39 for strikes
Zambrano escaped a jam after walking Derek Jeter and Rodriguez with two outs in the second by getting Giambi to fly to the wall in right. He hit Rodriguez with a pitch and walked Giambi with one out in the fifth, only get off the hook again when Sheffield struck out and Giambi was caught stealing to complete an inning-ending double play.
“We were just hoping that Victor would hold them right there—just to four runs—and maybe we’d have a chance to battle back, and we did that,” Tampa Bay’s Tino Martinez said.
“He showed me something,” Devil Rays manager Piniella said of Zambrano. “He threw a lot of pitches and struggled, but he battled. That was impressive to me.”
The Devil Rays rallied on Cruz’s RBI single in the first and Lugo’s homer in the fourth, which was a part a four-run inning. Martinez trimmed New York’s lead to 4-2 with a run-scoring single, Lugo made it 4-4 and Carl Crawford’s run-scoring triple put Tampa Bay ahead 5-4.
Toby Hall drove in two runs for Tampa Bay with a sacrifice fly in the fifth and a RBI single in the seventh. Lugo finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, while Cruz had two singles, a double and a triple.
Mussina has allowed 11 runs and 19 hits in nine innings in his two starts this season. … Rodriguez was 1-for-12 lifetime against Zambrano before his homer. … Both benches were warned after Yankees reliever Paul Quantrill hit Damian Rolls with a pitch to load the bases in the seventh. … The Devil Rays are 4-3 in their seven Tropicana Field openers. … World Junior Middleweight boxing champion Winky Wright, a St. Petersburg resident, threw outthe ceremonial first pitch.