ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—On a night that Alex Rodriguez lost his 23-game hitting streak and New York tumbled into last place, the Yankees searched for positives to take away from their longest losing streak in nearly two years.
“We can’t point fingers. We’re still in this together,” Johnny Damon said Tuesday night after Tampa Bay pitching cooled off A-Rod and Carl Crawford’s first career grand slam rallied the Devil Rays to a 6-4 victory.
The Yankees (8-11) went 0-5 on a trip that began with three losses at Boston, their longest losing streak since a six-game slide from May 28 to June 3, 2005.
“It’s tough,” said Derek Jeter, who left after being hit with a pitch in the first inning. “We should have won a few of them, but it didn’t happen. It’s just one of those things you have to work yourself through.”
A-Rod hit 13th and 14th homers to tie the major league record for home runs in April on Monday, but went 0-for-3 with a walk against Scott Kazmir and Shawn Camp, who struck out the slugger in his final at-bat.
Rodriguez had hit safely in 18 consecutive games to start the season and 23 straight dating to last September.
“The only thing I can tell this ballclub is you can’t start forcing it,” manager Joe Torre said. “You just have to continue doing what you’re doing. You can only do what you do. If you’re out there trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, it’s going to come back and bite you.”
New York’s Chien-Ming Wang (0-1), in his first start of the season, allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings after being activated from the disabled list earlier in the day. He departed after Dioner Navarro singled and B.J. Upton doubled to start the Devil Rays’ seventh.
Reliever Luis Vizcaino walked Rocco Baldelli intentionally to load the bases. One out later, the left-handed-hitting Crawford lined a 2-2 pitch from lefty specialist Mike Myers into the right-field stands to erase a 3-2 deficit and give Tampa Bay a two-game sweep—its first series victory since the Devil Rays took two of three from Seattle last Sept. 1-3.
Crawford, who began the night in an 0-for-11 slump, went 4-for-4, including three singles off Wang. After the grand slam, his teammates goaded him into popping out of the dugout for the first curtain call of his career.
“I don’t like doing that kind of stuff,” Crawford said.
But could he get used to it, now that he has some experience?
“I think anybody could if they did it often enough,” he said. “Considering the timing and what it did for us to win the game, that was the best home run I ever hit.”
The Yankees slipped into the AL East cellar, one-half game behind the Devil Rays, who swept New York for just second time in 52 series.
“It’s the absolute worst road trip we could imagine, being 0-5,” Damon said. “We’re 0-5 without being outplayed. We’re going out there and we’re doing OK. We’re just not finishing out the other teams.”
Jeter left with a bruised left thigh after being hit in the side of the leg by a pitch from Kazmir. He was checked by a trainer and spoke with manager Joe Torre before walking to first base and remaining in the game until New York took the field for the bottom of the first.
The Yankees captain said he hopes to be back in the lineup Wednesday, when New York opens a two-game series at home against Toronto.
Kazmir rebounded from a poor outing in which he threw 102 pitches in four innings of a 6-4 loss to Baltimore last week. He gave up a second-inning leadoff homer to Hideki Matsui and a single to Jorge Posada before retiring 12 in a row.
The Devil Rays took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Delmon Young’s broken-bat RBI grounder and Carlos Pena’s run-scoring single. Despite clinging a one-run lead, Kazmir was in control until opening the door for the Yankees with a throwing error after fielding Matsui’s grounder to the mound with one out in the seventh.
Posada doubled to right-center, driving in Matsui from first, and New York went ahead 3-2 on Josh Phelps’ two-out RBI single. Matsui singled in New York’s final run in the eighth.
“You just have to keep plugging,” Torre said. “These are the times that are tough in baseball. It’s when you start hitting potholes and you’re not succeeding. That’s when it becomes work basically. You have to work at it.” ^Notes: Wang had been out since March 23, when he hurt his right hamstring while running. … During their skid, the Yankees scored five or more runs in each of the first four games. The only other time in franchise history that they had least five runs in four consecutive losses with June 11-15, 1933. … With Akinori Iwamura on the DL with a right oblique strain, Ty Wigginton moved from first to third base for Tampa Bay. Carlos Pena started at first.