Zambrano beaten by Yanks for first time this season
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson bolster the Mets' pitching staff. (Chad Rachman/AP)
NEW YORK -- Victor Zambrano knows how to beat the Yankees. He had done it all three times he had faced them this season.
But the results were not the same Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. The Devil Rays lost, 7-1, and dropped back to .500 at 42-42.
"I didn't change a thing,'' Zambrano said.
But Derek Jeter drilled a pair of run-scoring singles early on and the Rays simply could not cash in against Yankees starter Jose Contreras.
"We just didn't swing the bat,'' manager Lou Piniella said. "We had the bases loaded a couple of times but didn't score.''
If the Rays had gotten a few more runs earlier in the game, there might have been a different result.
In two of his three victories against the Yankees early in the season, Zambrano gave up four and three runs. But the Rays backed him with eight runs on Opening Day in Japan and nine runs in the Tropicana Field opener a week later.
"We just didn't hit today,'' shortstop Julio Lugo said. "We had our chances.''
Zambrano (9-5) was not consistently sharp. He pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on six hits and seven walks. He struck out seven and threw 128 pitches, 71 for strikes.
"He pitched all right,'' Piniella said. "He did a pretty good job of wiggling out of it a couple of times but couldn't wiggle out of it each time.''
The loss ended Zambrano's team-record six-game winning streak.
"He was struggling today but what can you do?'' Piniella said. "If he wins another nine games in the second half, everyone will be ecstatic.''
Zambrano had not lost a game since Cleveland beat him on May 15. In each start since then, his command appeared to improve and he made good pitches in key spots. He did that at times on Thursday night, but he also looked like the pitcher who led the American League in walks, hit batters and wild pitches last season.
Toby Hall / C
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
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