Rays can't hold on against Yankees
Dukes' first big-league homer overshadowed by lost lead
NEW YORK -- A new season brought back a recurring theme for the Devil Rays: road frustration and a lost lead.
After showing promise by erasing a pair of two-run deficits to take a two-run lead, the Rays saw their bullpen stumble against the Yankees bats in a 9-5 loss in front of an Opening Day crowd of 55,035 on Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Scott Kazmir started for the Rays and got off to a less-than-auspicious beginning with a 35-pitch first inning in which he gave up three hits -- one of them a two-run single to Jason Giambi -- and a walk to stake the Yankees to a two-run lead.
"I was just trying not to overthrow in the first inning," Kazmir said. "And I kind of just caught myself not being as aggressive as I wanted to be, cutting pitches off and everything. I felt like after I got out of that, I kind of settled down a little bit."
The Rays got a break in the second when Derek Jeter threw away Akinori Iwamura's one-out grounder. Elijah Dukes drew a two-out walk, then B.J. Upton laced a single up the middle to cut the Yankees' lead to 2-1.
Jorge Posada led off the fourth with an opposite-field home run into the right-field stands to push the Yankees' lead to 3-1. Dukes answered for the Rays in the top of the fifth with a home run to center field off Yankees starter Carl Pavano. Upton then singled, stole second and scored on Carl Crawford's single that tied the score at 3. Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young added RBI singles to put the Rays on top, 5-3.
"[There were] a couple of pitches I left up that I wish I could get back," Kazmir said. "All in all, I just wish I could have gotten rid of that first inning. Maybe I would have gone deeper into the game."
Kazmir reached 107 pitches two batters into the sixth inning when Rays manager Joe Maddon signaled to the bullpen for right-hander Shawn Camp.
Lingering in the background were the 2006 memories of losing an American League-record 60 games after having owned a lead. Also looming was a reminder that the Rays won only three road games in the second half of last season.
Yankees manager Joe Torre countered Maddon's pitching change by sending in Doug Mientkiewicz to pitch-hit for Josh Phelps, and he put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to successfully move the runners into scoring position for Melky Cabrera. Camp then hit Cabrera to load the bases for Jeter, and the Yankees' captain responded with a single to drive home two and tie the game at 5.
"That's what we want out of Camp, is ground balls, and sometimes, those ground balls find holes," Maddon said. "It was good hitting on Jeter's part, obviously. But, again, Camp gets a ground ball, and I'm pleased with that."
Alex Rodgriguez singled off Brian Stokes to start the seventh, then stole second and scored the go-ahead run on a Giambi single.
"My one job out there is to hold them," Stokes said. "I let the team down, and that's real frustrating."
Rodriguez added a two-run homer off Juan Salas in the eighth -- the 465th of his career -- to finish the scoring.
"I was pleased with the way the game began, and we were playing well through five," Maddon said. "They're relentless on offense, and they actually beat us down at the end. But I really liked a lot of the things we did today.
"Kaz wasn't as sharp as he can be, but he settled in and pitched fine. Offensively, Dukesy did some nice things. Upton, Carl, Rocco -- they all looked good at the plate. I felt like we had a pretty [good] offensive day. We ran the bases well, and made no errors. That was all good stuff. But, of course, we've got to be better in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings."
Maddon rationalized the loss by saying that Monday was the first day of the season and that he wasn't disheartened by the defeat.
"The first time out, move on," Maddon said. "It just didn't happen today, but we're going to be fine."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.