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Rays get a break to beat Yankees

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays have had months of bad bounces and shaky defense.

Monday night, they had a bounce go their way.

Elliot Johnson's hard chopper down the first-base line in the bottom of the seventh skipped under first baseman Mark Teixeira's glove for an error, and Brooks Conrad, who had doubled off David Robertson, scored from second to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory.

The Rays won for only the second time in eight games, but extended their home winning streak against the Yankees to eight games.

It was the first error of the year by the normally slick-fielding Teixeira, who made a stellar defensive play earlier in the game.

"I have no idea how I missed that ball," Teixeira said, adding that he wasn't sure even after watching video of the play. "It's very tough. We should still be playing."

Rays manager Joe Maddon was focused less on his team's good fortune than its tenacity.

"The only way that happens is if you don't quit," he said. "If you don't give up, then it comes back to you. The moment you start to believe, 'Here we go again; woe is me; victim's complex,' then it piles on."

Rays rookie lefty Matt Moore (5-5) was again impressive, allowing three runs in seven innings. Fernando Rodney picked up his 23rd save.

The Yankees had taken a 3-2 lead against Moore in the seventh on a leadoff walk by No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart, a wild pitch, a fly out by Derek Jeter and sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson.

It was the first run allowed by Moore since the opening inning.

But the Rays came back in the bottom of the seventh.

The rally started with a pinch-hit walk by Sean Rodriguez, who went to second on a wild pitch by Boone Logan.

Robertson relieved Logan. Maddon had few options for a pinch-hitter and went with Brooks Conrad, who was claimed off waivers from the Brewers last month.

Conrad, who was 0-for-24 as a pinch-hitter dating to last year, sent a 3-1 pitch from Robertson to the wall in the right-center corner.

Johnson followed with his chopper past Teixeira into the Rays' bullpen in foul territory.

"I feel like I flat-out blew the game today," Robertson said. "That was not on Tex. He's made amazing plays behind us all year long. He's done it for three years here. It's going to happen. I still should have been able to get Conrad out."

Freddy Garcia pitched fairly well in his return to the Yankees' rotation after going 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in four stats early in the year and getting moved to the bullpen.

Subbing for injured Andy Pettitte, Garcia held the Rays to two solo home runs and three other hits through 5 2/3 innings.

The Rays, despite their win in the opening game of the series, aren't the team they were when they swept the Yankees at the Trop to start the season. They showed that at the outset defensively.

After Jeter opened the game with a double off the wall in right-center, and Granderson moved him to third with a groundout, Teixeira hit a medium-deep fly ball down the right-field line.

Ex-Yankee Hideki Matsui, starting in right for injured Matt Joyce, appeared to lose the ball against the dome ceiling and overran it. He reversed direction at the last instant, but the ball fell in for what was ruled an RBI double.

Still with no outs, Alex Rodriguez singled to put runners at the corners, and Robinson Cano, the Yankees' hottest hitter, drilled a ground ball up the middle to score Teixeira and make it 2-0.

But Moore, who was 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA in June, prevented any more damage through the early innings. And that allowed the Rays to stay close.

B.J. Upton's sixth home run, a solo shot off Garcia with one out in the fourth, cut the Yankees' lead to 2-1.

Carlos Pena's solo shot in the sixth tied the game and chased Garcia. Yankees manager Joe Girardi only expected to use Garcia for five or six innings because all of his recent work has been out of the bullpen.

Matsui played only two innings in the field before leaving with left hamstring tightness. That forced Maddon to make multiple changes to his already injury-depleted defense.

NOTES: The Yankees optioned reliever Cory Wade to Triple-A to make room for newly acquired reliever Chad Qualls. The once-dependable Wade has a 5.79 ERA in 33 appearances. Qualls, a one-time closer who was designated for assignment by the Phillies, "has obviously pitched in some later innings in his career and we'll mix him in," Girardi said. ... Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain will pitch in a simulated game Friday, a possible precursor to starting a minor league rehab assignment. The 250-pound righty dislocated his right ankle jumping on a trampoline with his son in March. He was coming back from elbow ligament replacement surgery at that time. ... Outfielder Raul Ibanez arrived late after remaining in New York to be checked for a concussion. He hit his mouth on the bench in Sunday's game against the White Sox while avoiding a foul ball, splitting his lip and chipping a tooth. ... Rays right fielder Joyce (left oblique) is progressing and could join the team as soon as this weekend in Cleveland, Maddon said. Tampa Bay entered Monday 3-9 since Joyce went on the DL. ... Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who left his start Saturday against Detroit after getting in his right shin hit by a liner, threw a bullpen session and is expected to make his next scheduled start.
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