ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Boss didn’t stick around for the finish.
The New York Yankees tumbled to their lowest point in a decade Wednesday night, losing their second straight to the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays— this time 11-8 with owner George Steinbrenner watching part of the game from his suite at Tropicana Field.
“We’re just not playing good. There’s really nothing else you can say,” captain Derek Jeter said. “We’re not doing the job, bottom line.”
The loss was the sixth in eight games for New York, which made significant lineup changes the previous night to try to break out of a rut. The Yankees are six games under .500 for the first time since after games of July 19, 1995, when they were 34-40.
At 11-17, the Yankees are just a game ahead of fifth-place Tampa Bay, which stopped an eight-game losing streak by beating up on Kevin Brown on Tuesday night. The Devil Rays scored 22 runs in their first consecutive victories over New York in almost two years, despite hitting just one homer.
Rookie Damon Hollins led the way, going 3-for-3 with a solo homer and four RBIs. The Devil Rays also took advantage of a throwing error by new Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, which led to a four-run third against Sean Henn (0-1), making his major league debut as a fill-in for Randy Johnson.
“Hitting is contagious,” Hollins said. “You know you’ve got to score a lot of runs against those guys and just kind of keep pounding them. That’s what we did tonight.”
Cano was brought up from Triple-A Columbus as part of the shakeup manager Joe Torre instituted in hopes of turning the Yankees around. Cano had his first two major league hits, but New York never fully recovered from his error, which cost two runs.
The Yankees also weren’t helped in the third when Tony Womack, moved to left field to make room for Cano at second, appeared to take a bad angle on a ball that went over his head and bounced to the wall for a RBI double.
“It’s not a good time for the Yankees,” said general manager Brian Cashman, who watched the game from Steinbrenner’s suite. “We’ll grind through it, I promise you that.”
Alex Rodriguez and Tino Martinez hit solo homers off Hideo Nomo, who lasted just 4 2-3 innings despite being staked to an 8-2 lead. The Yankees chased the Devil Rays starter with three runs in the fifth on Gary Sheffield’s RBI double and Hideki Matsui’s two-run single.
Nomo allowed five runs and seven hits. Casey Fossum (2-1) worked 1 1-3 innings for the victory, and Danys Baez got four outs to earn his second save after New York rallied for two runs in the eighth to trim its deficit to 10-8.
Yankees designated hitter Jason Giambi left in the eighth inning after being hit in the side of the head by a pitch from Trever Miller, a ball that glanced off his shoulder before knocking off his helmet. He leaned over for a moment, but remained standing and walked off the field under his own power.
Giambi was examined in the trainer’s room before being taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for further evaluation.
“They think he’s fine,” Cashman said, adding that Giambi experienced some ringing in his ear and blurred vision. “They’re just doing this as a precaution.”
Henn was recalled from Double-A Trenton to replace Johnson, who was scratched because of stiffness in his left groin. His stay will be brief, though, because the Big Unit is confident he’ll be able to make his next scheduled start, on Monday.
The 24-year-old left-hander gave up two runs in the second and four in the third, when Cano’s throwing error allowed two runs to score. Josh Phelps and Alex Gonzalez followed with RBI doubles to make it 6-2 and finish Henn’s debut after 72 pitches.
“This is when you’re measured, when you struggle,” Torre said. “We certainly have to find a way to get it done. There’s no secret formula. … You just have to keep coming out here until you get a better feel.”
Henn was optioned to Columbus after the game. RHP Tanyon Sturtze (ribs) was activated from the 15-day DL. … Tampa Bay is guaranteed at least a split of the four-game series. The Devil Rays have never taken a series from the Yankees under manager Lou Piniella. … Rodriguez’s homer was the 391st of his career.