Devil Rays 11, Yankees 4

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Mike Mussina and the New York Yankees got a scare just over a week away from the playoffs.

Mussina was hit on the glove hand by Carl Crawford’s liner and left the Yankees’ 11-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the fifth inning Sunday.

“It shouldn’t be any issue,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Torre went to the mound after Crawford’s hit and immediately removed Mussina (14-7), who allowed six runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. Mussina is in line to pitch the third game of the Yankees’ first-round playoff series, and the Yankees said Mussina sustained a mild bruise at the base of his left thumb.

“My thumb is OK,” Mussina said. “It’s a little sore. It won’t be a factor.”

New York has lost three of four since clinching its ninth straight AL East title on Wednesday night, endangering homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-3 to extend his slide to 4-for-28, popping out with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

“It’s something about the concentration in games like this, and I take nothing away from the Devil Rays,” Torre said. “The intensity of how you go about it, it’s nothing you’re going to have a meeting on. They know what’s important. I’ve been very comfortable with the way we’ve approached it.”

Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon went 0-for-5 in his return after missing the three games with a cut on his left hand. Robinson Cano hit a solo homer for the Yankees and went 2-for-4, leaving his average at .341.

Ty Wigginton had a two-run single during a six-run fourth against Mussina and added a solo homer for the Devil Rays (60-95), who became the fifth team to lose 95 games overall with a winning record at home (41-39).

Crawford became the first player since Hall of Famers Earle Combs, Paul Waner and Charlie Gehringer in 1930 to have 15 or more triples in three consecutive seasons.

“When you reach a milestone like that, it’s always a good thing,” Crawford said. “I have no clue why other guys haven’t done it.”

Rookie Brian Stokes (1-0) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings for his first major league victory. It was his third start and fourth appearance.

“It’s a dream come true, especially against those guys,” Stokes said.

New York loaded the bases with no outs in the second but scored just once, on Hideki Matsui’s sacrifice fly.

Rocco Baldelli opened the fourth with a double and Delmon Young reached first when shortstop Derek Jeter was charged with an error for a throw in the dirt to Gary Sheffield, whose foot came off the first-base bag. Sheffield, coming back from wrist surgery, made his big league debut at first base on Friday night. He went 1-for-3 Sunday and is 1-for-8 since returning.

“I was happy to see it,” Sheffield said. “Those are the plays that we talked about you can’t grasp until you go through it. It’s on-the-job training. I will get it.”

Torre is still evaluating Sheffield’s play at first, but has been pleased with most aspects thus far.

“He got a pocket-full today,” Torre said.

Crawford’s infield RBI single tied it, Greg Norton walked to load the bases and Wigginton hit a two-run single that put Tampa Bay ahead for good. B.J. Upton added an RBI double, and Ben Zobrist hit a two-run single to shallow right that made it 6-1.

“Things went from really good to really bad in a hurry,” Mussina said. “I really didn’t feel like I made that many mistakes.

“Sometimes big innings happen with a bunch of small things. A roller down the line for a double, an error, an infield single and it kind of exploded from there.”

Wigginton hit his team-best 23rd homer off Ron Villone during a five-run sixth that extended the lead to 11-3. Baldelli had a two-run single, and Crawford drove in a pair with a triple.


Yankees 1B Jason Giambi (left wrist) is scheduled to hit off a tee Tuesday and could play soon after. … Torre said he is leaning toward having RHP Jaret Wright be the fourth starter in the playoffs. RHP Chien-Ming Wang or LHP Randy Johnson is expected to start the postseason opener. … Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, coming off a strained right forearm, is expected to pitch on consecutive days this week. … The game was briefly delayed in the bottom of the fourth when a security guard near the Tampa Bay dugout was taken off the field on a stretcher. The Devil Rays said the man experienced chest tightness, was treated at the stadium first aid center and released. … Devil Rays 2B Jorge Cantu (fever) missed his third straight game.

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