NEW YORK (AP)—Alex Rodriguez had a great opportunity to turn Yankees fans in his favor.
Once again, he flopped.
Rodriguez popped out against rookie reliever Brian Stokes with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays spoiled Andy Pettitte’s return to New York with a 7-6 victory Thursday night.
“It was frustrating. He gave me a good pitch to hit and I didn’t do much with it,” Rodriguez said. “A fat pitch. It was right there.”
Elijah Dukes hit his second homer in two major league games and Tampa Bay took advantage of some shoddy defense by the Yankees on a snowy night in the Bronx. The Devil Rays went ahead in the eighth inning on a wild pitch and held on for only their fourth road victory since July 1.
“The road was a big part of our bane last year. To do that here, I was really pleased—and I think it may carry over,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You remember how many times last year we didn’t finish it off. Tonight, we finished it off.”
On a windy, 38-degree night with light snow flurries occasionally blowing around, the Yankees had three errors, three wild pitches and a passed ball. They’ve made six errors in two games—three by Gold Glove shortstop Derek Jeter.
“We played sloppy. We’ve got to tighten it up a little bit,” Jeter said. “You’re not going to win too many games like that.”
Rodriguez had a chance to nullify all the miscues, but couldn’t do it.
A-Rod, who is 4-for-41 (.098) without an RBI in his last 12 playoff games dating to 2004, tossed his bat aside in disgust after the popout and muttered to himself as he waited for a teammate to bring out his cap and glove. Often booed at Yankee Stadium for failing to deliver in crucial situations, he heard plenty of catcalls again—even from a crowd diminished by the cold.
“I think at times it is unfair,” manager Joe Torre said.
Right before that, Bobby Abreu had an opportunity for a big hit, but he bounced weakly into a force at the plate for the second out.
Al Reyes worked a perfect ninth for his first save since 2005 with St. Louis.
Wearing a ski mask under his helmet with a slit around the eyes just wide enough to allow him to see, Dukes hit a line shot over the left-field fence against Scott Proctor to snap a 4-all tie in the sixth. Carl Crawford added an RBI single later in the inning.
Dukes also homered in his first big league at-bat on Monday.
“This one was probably more satisfying because we won,” said Dukes, suspended for the final month of last season at Triple-A Durham because of a string of on- and off-the-field problems that threatened his future in baseball.
Hideki Matsui’s two-run single off winner Ruddy Lugo (1-0) with two outs in the seventh tied it at 6. Maddon doesn’t have a left-hander in his bullpen, so he stuck with Lugo to face Jason Giambi, who walked to load the bases, and Matsui.
Pettitte made his first start in pinstripes since the 2003 World Series. Looking for his 150th win with the Yankees, he gave up four runs—two earned— and six hits in four-plus innings. Slowed a bit by back spasms this spring, he threw 83 pitches.
“It was definitely not what you wanted to get out of your first outing being back,” Pettitte said. “Extremely disappointing.”
The 34-year-old Pettitte helped the Yankees to four World Series titles and six AL pennants from 1995-2003. After three years with his hometown Houston Astros, he signed a $16 million, one-year contract to come back to the Big Apple. But his return was delayed a day by Wednesday’s rainout.
Jae Seo lasted 6 1-3 innings for Tampa Bay, allowing five runs and 11 hits. He left with a 6-4 lead.
Rodriguez’s two-out RBI double in the first put New York ahead, but Josh Paul tied it in the second with a run-scoring single.
An error by Jeter and a passed ball led to Delmon Young’s RBI single in the third.
The Yankees took a 4-2 lead in the fourth on run-scoring singles by Doug Mientkiewicz and Cano, plus an RBI groundout by Jeter. Tampa Bay tied it in the fifth on Ty Wigginton’s sacrifice fly and a run-scoring wild pitch by Proctor.
The last time the Yankees made at least three errors in each of their first two games was 1926, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Jeter tied Don Mattingly for sixth on the club’s career list with 2,153 hits. … Yankees CF Johnny Damon sat out with a mild strain in his right calf. … The Devil Rays went 3-33 on the road after July 1 last season and finished 20-61 away from home. They were 41-40 at home. … Dukes became the first Devil Rays player to homer in his first two major league games.