Devil Rays unable to hold off Yankees
Pena drives in three, but visitors post comeback victory
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays have a hitch in their get-along, simple as that.
Every time they get something going and give the impression that maybe, just maybe they are about to turn some metaphorical page, something or somebody snuffs out the inertia before any real ground can be gained.
On Saturday night, Bobby Abreu turned out to be that somebody in a 6-4 Yankees win over the Rays in front of a sellout crowd of 36,048 at Tropicana Field.
"It is frustrating to not be able to carry it through," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But I'm looking at the effort. I'm looking at us doing the little things better. Good pitching tonight from our perspective [with Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine]. They beat us. We beat them last night, they beat us tonight."
Abreu, who was taken by the Rays in the 1997 expansion draft before getting dealt to the Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker, drove in five to effectively serve up Saturday night's mood killer in front of the second sellout crowd of the season.
Abreu, who once belonged to the Rays before swiftly getting dealt to the Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker, drove in five to effectively serve up Saturday night's mood killer in front of the second sellout crowd of the season.
Abreu is hitting .545 (6-for-11) in the first three games of the series with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.
Abreu is "good," Maddon said. "And all of a sudden he turned it on."
Abreu's work proved to be particularly disheartening for Rays fans who watched the Rays jump to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Carlos Pena and Delmon Young.
In addition to the Rays' good fortune in the first, Sonnanstine got through the first two innings looking remarkably calm for somebody facing the Yankees for the first time in his career.
"They have some exceptional hitters," Sonnanstine said. "That's for sure. ... You really have to worry about not making mistakes, but I tried to keep the same mentality and do what I've been doing, try to be aggressive and get ahead.
"Coming out of the gates up, 3-0, I did everything in my power to try and keep the lead, but I made a couple of bad pitches inside to lefties and they put some real good swings on them."
Those lefties were Hideki Matsui and Abreu, each of whom connected for a home run against Sonnanstine. Matsui's came when he led off the fourth to cut the Rays' lead to 3-2. Abreu followed with a two-run homer in the fifth to put the Yankees up for good at 4-3.
"Both pitches to Abreu and Matsui were cutters and [that pitch is] something I've been working on," said Sonnanstine, who ranked his cutter as his third or fourth best pitch. "The only way that pitch is going to get better is if I keep throwing it. You know, it's a work in progress. Hopefully, I'll iron that out pretty soon."
Wang got tough and retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced following Young's first-inning double.
"We jumped him early, but after that he looked like his old self," Maddon said. "Just pounded the bottom of the zone, the breaking ball was good also. We got the three early, it would have been nice to add it on. ... He's been pitching pretty well."
Young broke Wang's spell with a single in the sixth to start a rally. B.J. Upton followed with a single, then Wang hit Ty Wigginton to load the bases with two outs and Jonny Gomes stepping to the plate for what appeared to be an opportune moment. But Wang managed to find the right combination to get the Rays slugger looking to finish his outing and end the inning.
"He gave me sliders early in the count and then that 2-2 pitch was his patent sinker," Gomes said. "He just did a good job. The whole at-bat, he was on the outer part of the plate and he made that pitch."
Normally, Wang will feed a team a steady diet of sinkers, thrown at a speed few approach. On Saturday night, he adjusted to what Rays hitters showed him.
"I saw a lot more sliders from him this time around," Gomes said. "That sinker is his bread and butter. ... Soon as you start sitting on that, he throws you that slider. So he did a good job."
Pena made it close at the end with a solo home run off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth to cut the Yankees' lead to one run, but Abreu, like he did all night, answered in the ninth with an RBI double to equal the final margin.
Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 12th save of the season and his 425th career save to move past John Franco for third place among the all-time saves leaders.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.