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Rodriguez steps up for Rays in win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The mark of a team that wins consistently is when someone different gets the big hit in each game.

That's what the Tampa Bay Rays are experiencing as they attempt to dig out of a deep hole in the American League East.

On Thursday, it was Sean Rodriguez's turn. The utility man drove in three runs and hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning that helped the Rays extend their season-high winning streak to five games with a 6-3 victory over the slumping New York Yankees.

"It can't just be one, two (or), three guys," Rodriguez said. "You've got to do it collectively as a group.

"As a team, we're starting to flow better; guys are starting to understand each other better."

The Rays pulled off their second sweep in 10 months at Yankee Stadium without getting much from power hitters Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce. The third baseman and designated hitter were a combined 5-for-23 in the series.

Instead, it was less-heralded middle infielders getting it done for the Rays, who have won 14 of 21 and six of seven on an 11-game road trip.

"We're getting a different bus driver on a daily basis' that's kind of neat," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "That's who we have to be. We're not necessarily built around one guy. We're built as group. Everybody's got to do their job."

Two days after second baseman Logan Forsythe delivered the winning hit in the 12th, it was Rodriguez's turn. He took a 4-for-32 slump and .205 batting average into Wednesday and then had an RBI single in the fourth before driving a 1-1 slider from reliever Shawn Kelley well over the center field wall just to the left of Monument Park for a 5-3 lead.

"My goodness, that's out of the old stadium," Maddon said.

Left fielder Brandon Guyer added an RBI single and catcher Ryan Hanigan scored on a passed ball as Tampa Bay won at Yankee Stadium for the eighth time in its last nine visits. The Rays added their final run on an RBI groundout by first baseman James Loney in the ninth.

Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner led off the game with his eighth home run and had three hits, including an RBI single in the fourth. Catcher Brian McCann reached base three times and hit a solo home run in the third that was not enough for the Yankees.

New York dropped its season-high fifth straight game and also lost for the ninth time in 11 games as it blew a trio of one-run leads. The Yankees had 10 hits but stranded nine, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and fell below .500 (41-42) through 83 games.

"I still believe in this team," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, people are going to say tell me why because there's talent in the room. We just need to play better. It's a lot of different phases. You can look at almost every phase and say we need to play better and we have to find a way to get it done."

Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-7) allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings before four relievers combined on 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

"We're playing really well right now," Odorizzi said. "It seems like one person a day is getting that big hit when we need it and that's what we were lacking early in the season."

Cesar Ramos secured the final out of the sixth before allowing a leadoff single to Gardner in the seventh. Juan Carlos Oviedo allowed a one-out walk to McCann but struck out Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson in the eighth.

Joel Peralta, who blew Monday's save, pitched a scoreless eighth, stranding second baseman Brian Roberts on second by striking out rookie third baseman Yangervis Solarte. Brad Boxberger struck out two in the ninth for his second career save.

Yankees left-hander Vidal Nuno (2-5) allowed four runs (three earned) and eight hits in five-plus innings.

NOTES: 1B Mark Teixeira did not play after having his right knee drained following Tuesday's loss, but the Yankees believe he will not miss Thursday's game in Minnesota and it is not a long-term issue. Teixeira leads the Yankees with 15 home runs but has missed 21 games this season. ... Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury had the day off since manager Joe Girardi said he was a little beat up and had soreness. ... Girardi also said that SS Derek Jeter would soon get a day off. ... Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon wanted to give IF Ben Zobrist a day off from the field and so he started IF Sean Rodriguez at shortstop for the first time. ... Tampa Bay LHP David Price has 153 strikeouts -- the most in the majors through July 1 since 2002 when Curt Schilling (175) and Randy Johnson (161) had more.
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