Pena powers Rays past Yanks
Slugger's three-run blast ties team home run record
NEW YORK -- Like so many times this summer, Carlos Pena came through with the big hit in the Rays' 8-2 win over the Yankees on Sunday in front of a crowd of 53,957 at Yankee Stadium.
With the Rays clinging to a 2-1 lead in the seventh, Pena clubbed a 2-1 pitch from Yankees starter Andy Pettitte into the right-field stands for his 34th home run of the season. The blast gave the Rays a 5-1 lead and tied Pena with Aubrey Huff (2003) and Jose Canseco (1999) for the club's all-time single-season home run record.
The victory clinched the weekend series for the Rays, who took two out of three from the contending Yankees, a rare feat considering Tampa Bay has played 27 series at Yankee Stadium since the franchise first began play in 1998 and only four times has it left the Bronx with a series win; the last time it occurred was in 2005, when the Rays took two series.
"That's nice, we played a great game today as a team," Pena said. "What a great series. We got incredible pitching, great pitching performances all around and timely hitting. That wins ballgames."
As for the new Rays record, Pena was excited about it.
"It's awesome, no doubt about it," Pena said. "It's great. It's definitely an accomplishment. I'm very happy about getting to that point. It's one of those cool things."
Jason Hammel turned 25 on Sunday and started for the Rays, looking for his first Major League win as a starter after 17 unsuccessful attempts. The rookie right-hander held the Yankees to one run on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.
"I felt really comfortable mechanically, and it wasn't even in my head, so I felt really good," said Hammel, who has been working on his mechanics lately. "[I] made some good pitches when I needed to, got some great 'D,' and we got the hitting. Once you get the lead, that makes it easier.
"I had the fastball command today -- putting the fastball where I needed it and the slider was coming off the fastball -- so I had a lot of swings at the slider today."
Pettitte started for the Yankees and brought with him a string of six consecutive wins. In addition, the veteran Yankees left-hander had won 12 consecutive decisions against the Rays. Both streaks ended Sunday.
Trailing 5-1, the Yankees scored a run in the seventh on Bobby Abreu's RBI triple, but the Rays answered with two out in the top of the eighth with three runs -- a solo home run by Josh Wilson and a two-run shot by Akinori Iwamura -- to give them an 8-2 cushion. The Rays had four home runs on the afternoon, something they had accomplished just once this season (April 6 vs. Toronto).
Iwamura, who enjoyed being booed by the Yankee Stadium crowd following Saturday's debacle that saw his bat confiscated by the umpires, said he has moved on.
"Nothing carried over from yesterday," Iwamura said. "I haven't done anything bad with my bats, so I didn't think about it. I did everything I could today. It's a new day and I did good today."
Dioner Navarro hit a solo home run in the third off Pettitte to put the Rays up, 1-0.
The Rays saw another scoring opportunity fall by the wayside in the fifth when Wilson tried to score on Iwamura's two-out single but was thrown out on a perfect throw from Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon to Jorge Posada, who blocked the plate to prevent Wilson from scoring.
Andy Phillips had better luck when he tried to score on Melky Cabrera's double to right as he barreled through Navarro's attempt to block home plate to score the Yankees' first run.
Carl Crawford walked to lead off the sixth, went to second on an unsuccessful pickoff attempt by Pettitte, stole third, then scored on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
Rays manager Joe Maddon felt like the game was won by the pitching staff's combined effort. Scott Dohmann, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Gary Glover followed Hammel and held the Yankees to one run over the final four innings.
"I want to say the pitching is what won that game for us today," Maddon said. "You look at all the runs we scored, all the hits we got, but the job that Jason did [was the key]. And you look at what the bullpen guys did -- Dohmann, Balfour, Wheels and finally Glover -- that's why we won, a tremendous job of pitching, attacked the strike zone. I loved it. That's the part I loved most."
In winning, the Rays took back-to-back road series, claiming five wins during the seven-game trip in the process, which Maddon hailed as refreshing given the fact the Rays won just three road games the entire second half of 2006.
"It means things are turning," Maddon said. "The level that we're pitching at now, and the level our bullpen is pitching at now, allow us to win games we weren't winning last year."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.