Longoria hits first homer, but Rays fall
Late rally not enough as Reyes gives up decisive dinger
ST. PETERSBURG -- Just when the natural order of the American League East seemed to be turning upside down, Robinson Cano reminded everyone the Yankees are, in fact, still the Yankees.
The Rays had just erased a 7-2 lead with a five-run seventh inning when Cano pinch-hit with one out in the top of the eighth. Al Reyes threw Cano a 2-1 changeup, then watched helplessly as Cano deposited the pitch into the right-field stands to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead they would hold onto before a crowd of 18,872 Monday night at Tropicana Field.
"It's a big hit for us; it's not exactly how you draw the game up, but I think it's a good character game and our guys battled back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Tropicana Field has forever echoed like an indoor Yankee Stadium every time the Bronx Bombers travel south.
Beleaguered Rays fans have never been able to hold a candle to the "Let's Go Yankees!" and raucous cheers for Jeter, A-Rod and the rest of the Bombers that even drowned out the likes of the emerging cow bells. But for a fleeting moment Monday night, Tropicana Field felt like a home -field advantage to the Rays.
A furious five-run seventh featuring home runs by Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and the new kid, Evan Longoria -- including a curtain call by Longoria demanded by the fans -- seemed to personify everything the Rays are doing right to turn around the franchise. But it wasn't enough.
And while Reyes wore the goat horns, Rays manager Joe Maddon couldn't hold the reliever at fault for hanging a changeup, rationalizing "that's a physical mistake" and not a mistake of the mental variety, which were the tough-to-swallow mistakes Monday night.
"There's a lot I don't want to get used to, giving up all those runs like we did," Maddon said. "We just made too many mental mistakes tonight. The good part is we fought back. I loved the fight, the enthusiasm. There's a lot of grit among our group, but we have to stop making the mental mistakes that do not permit us to win games like tonight. And that's what I'm most upset about."
Three noteworthy mental mistakes exacted their toll on a possible victory.
Andy Sonnanstine started for the Rays and surrendered solo home runs to three of the first six hitters he faced to put the Rays down, 3-0. To Sonnanstine's credit, he retired the final three batters in the second and allowed no runs in the third before striking out Morgan Ensberg to start the fourth. That's when Sonnanstine found the kind of trouble that did not play well with Maddon.
Melky Cabrera singled before trying to steal second. The Rays had correctly called a pitchout on the play, but Sonnanstine did not throw the pitch far enough outside, and Chad Moeller poked the ball between first and second for a single to put runners on the corners.
"One thing I'm disappointed with was the pitchout that had to be a few feet more outside," Sonnanstine said. "I thought that was a big turning point."
Sonnanstine made matters worse when he walked the next batter, Alberto Gonzalez -- the No. 9 hitter -- to load the bases for Johnny Damon.
"Who knows [what happened]," Sonnanstine said. "Maybe trying to be a little too fine. Any time you walk the nine-hole hitter, it's not a good idea, especially against a lineup like the New York Yankees."
Damon led off the game with a home run; he settled for a two-run double in the fourth. Jeter added a two-run single to chase Sonnanstine and put the Yankees up, 7-1.
Mental mistake No. 3 came in the sixth just when the Rays appeared ready to generate some offense. Upton stood on second and Longoria on first with no outs and Eric Hinske at the plate. But Upton tried to steal third and Moeller threw him out.
"Probably not a good situation to steal, but at the same time they were throwing Eric a lot of changeups all day ... thought I had it beat on him and I guess I didn't," said Upton, who said he was trying to be aggressive. "You know Joe always wants us to be aggressive and maybe that wasn't the situation for it."
Riggans singled one out later, but Nathan Haynes struck out to end the inning.
Scott Dohmann led a stellar effort by the bullpen, posting 3 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Rays in the game. The only run surrendered by the bullpen proved to be the winning run given up by Reyes.
"You saw a lot of really good things out there tonight," Maddon said. "You saw a lot of skillful young athletes participating in a Major League game tonight. But if we're going to win games like this, we can't make those mistakes. They've got to go away."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.