NEW YORK (AP)—Tampa Bay’s Jonny Gomes talked about the two ‘L’s needed to win baseball games: leather and lumber.
The New York Yankees didn’t provide enough of either Tuesday night, and it guaranteed them a losing record against the Devil Rays for the first time.
Second baseman Robinson Cano’s error with one out in the ninth inning allowed Tampa Bay to score the go-ahead run in a 4-3 victory over the Yankees.
The Devil Rays are 10-4 against the Yankees in 2005 after beginning the season 31-80 against New York. Even they have a hard time explaining their success this season against the team that has won the AL East every year since Tampa Bay joined the majors in 1998.
“Whatever it is, I hope it continues,” manager Lou Piniella said.
Gomes had two hits and scored a run, but his biggest contributions came with two strong throws from right field in the sixth inning, helping keep the Devil Rays’ deficit to a run.
“That’s baseball. The two `L’s, leather and lumber, you’ve got to do them both, and today all nine of us did,” Gomes said. “You can win a ballgame so many different ways.”
The Yankees couldn’t hold a three-run lead with Randy Johnson on the mound and lost the opener of a six-game homestand. New York fell four games behind the division-leading Boston Red Sox, who open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium starting Friday.
New York’s Derek Jeter scored a run and drove in another in his 1,500th major league game. The Yankees’ lead in the AL wild-card race dropped to a half-game over Cleveland.
Pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff singled off Mariano Rivera (6-4) with one out in the ninth, and pinch-runner Joey Gathright stole second. Julio Lugo hit a grounder behind second, which Cano allowed to go between his legs while the speedy Gathright raced home.
“Physical mistakes happen, and they took advantage with their speed,” Jeter said. “I’ve made errors to lose games before. I’ll probably do it again, and he’ll probably do it again.”
The Devil Rays tied the game at 3 in the seventh. Singles by Nick Green and Carl Crawford put runners at the corners with one out, and Johnson was replaced by Tom Gordon, who gave up Jorge Cantu’s sacrifice fly.
Johnson has not beaten Tampa Bay since May 29, 1998, when he pitched for Seattle. He has lost his last three decisions against the Devil Rays—his longest current losing streak against an opponent—and is 0-1 in four starts against Tampa Bay this year.
“What’s impressive is their starting pitching,” Johnson said. “You give up three runs to a team like ours, that’s impressive. Obviously they’ve played us well, but they’ve played other teams well.”
New York had three hits in the sixth, but sent only four men to the plate and couldn’t add to its lead because of the strong arm of Gomes.
Gomes threw out Jason Giambi trying to stretch a single into a double leading off the sixth, then started a 9-4-2 relay to get Bernie Williams at the plate when he tried to score on John Flaherty’s single.
Jeter led off the first with a single off the glove of a leaping Alex Gonzalez at third and eventually scored on Gary Sheffield’s infield single. Sheffield scored when second baseman Green booted Ruben Sierra’s two-out grounder.
The Yankees made it 3-0 in the second when Cano doubled with one out and scored on Jeter’s single, but they couldn’t get anything more against starter Casey Fossum.
“We had him on the ropes early and couldn’t put him away,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “This is a tough loss, like they all are this time of year.”
The Devil Rays got within 3-2 in the fourth on consecutive two-out hits by Gonzalez and Toby Hall. Tampa Bay put the first two runners on in the sixth, but Johnson got the next three batters.
Before the game, the Yankees presented a check for $1 million to the Salvation Army for its Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Among the Yankees in the presentation was OF Matt Lawton, whose parents’ home in Mississippi was destroyed. … After earning the AL player of the month award, Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez struck out in his first three plate appearances. … SS Lugo made a diving stop of Sierra’s grounder in the third and threw him out from his knees on the outfield grass. … The crowd of 48,820 was the first below 50,000 at Yankee Stadium since a June 23 game against Tampa Bay drew 45,382—a span of 30 games.