NEW YORK (AP)—After so many seasons of misery in New York, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays might be thinking they entered baseball’s version of “The Twilight Zone” this week.
Jorge Cantu hit a pair of two-run homers and Damon Hollins had a three-run double to help Tampa Bay beat the Yankees 9-4 Thursday night, giving the Devil Rays their first series win in New York in more than five years.
“Their approach was great against us, they just beat us—fair and square,” Alex Rordiguez said. “They just played better baseball. The way they played against us this year they’ve proven they can beat us.
“They dominated us.”
Had the Yankees not rallied from a 10-2 deficit to win 20-11 Tuesday, the last-place Devil Rays would have left with a four-game sweep. Tampa Bay last won a series in New York from Sept. 24-27, 1999, and is 2-16-3 in series there.
“When we came here, St. Louis had beaten us at home and we were looking just to start playing good baseball on the road, and it turned out to be a real nice road trip for us,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said.
Tamp Bay arrived in New York having been swept by St. Louis, while New York took the first six games of its homestand. But The Devil Rays got solid starts from Casey Fossum, Scott Kazmir and Mark Hendrickson (3-4)—their starters finished the series with an 4.78 ERA to the Yankees’ starters 8.85.
“Pitching sets the tone,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said, repeating his mantra after the latest loss.
The Devil Rays are 8-29 on the road but half those wins have been at Yankee Stadium, where they are 4-2. They do not have a winning record in any other ballpark, including their own, where they are 18-18. Tampa Bay improved to 1-10-1 in road series this season.
The Yankees dropped to 3-7 overall against the Devil Rays, with an effort that sharply contrasted Torre’s pregame hope for a “grind-it-out” victory.
Bernie Williams nonchalantly played Julio Lugo’s soft liner to center field and Lugo hustled into second for a double, Derek Jeter turned what should have been a routine inning-ending grounder into a run-scoring error that put Tampa Bay ahead for good, and Chien-Ming Wang (4-3) was ineffective for six innings.
“It’s been a tough go,” Torre said. “I don’t have an answer. I wish I did.”
New York didn’t fare much better at the plate against Hendrickson. After Jeter grounded into a double play that ended the fourth, the 6-foot-9 former NBA player with a 9.43 ERA in four June starts retired 11 straight until Rodriguez’s ground-rule double with two outs in the eighth.
Baez walked Posada but got Ruben Sierra to ground out to second base. Baez then finished for his 12th save in 18 chances, allowing two runners to reach in the ninth before Williams grounded into a game-ending double play.
Hendrickson won for the first time in five starts, allowing four runs and nine hits in 7 2-3 innings.
“They pretty much had our number, but it’s over,” Jeter said, pausing for effect, then adding, “Who do we play now?”
That would be Pedro Martinez and the Mets in an opener of a three-game interleague series that begins Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Cantu had his second multihomer game in a week, giving him 11 home runs for the season. He hit a two-run homer after Lugo walked in the first and another after Lugo’s double in the third.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Cantu said. “Beating one of the best teams in baseball and taking three out of four is always nice. Hopefully, we take this back home.”
The Yankees bounced back after each homer, getting a two-run shot from Williams in the first and a sacrifice fly from Sheffield and an opposite-field RBI single to left by Matsui in the third.
Tampa Bay took a 5-4 lead in the when Jeter’s throw in the dirt on Cantu’s routine grounder allowed Nick Green to score with two outs.
With runners on first and third and two outs in the top of the sixth, fans did the wave and chanted “Let’s go Yankees!” seemingly trying to will the team out of its sluggish effort. It didn’t help. Carl Crawford singled to shallow center field to score Eric Munson and give Tampa Bay a 6-4 lead.
Wang, a rookie, has been one of New York’s most reliable starters since joining the rotation on April 30, but he allowed six runs—five earned—in six innings with three walks and a hit batter. Wang also gave up five runs to the Devil Rays in a 6-2 loss on May 5, his second big league start.
Matsui has 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. … Devil Rays CF Rocco Baldelli had surgery Thursday to repair ligament damage in his right elbow. The team said the operation, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., was successful. Baldelli is expected to return in eight to nine months.