Long balls hurt Rays in Bronx finale
Sonnanstine surrenders four homers to Yankees
NEW YORK -- Any questions the Rays might have had about the way the ball carries at the new Yankee Stadium were answered during their three-game series in the Bronx, a series that saw the two teams hit 10 home runs.
Unfortunately for the Rays, seven of the homers were hit by the Yankees, including four off Andy Sonnanstine on Monday night, when they defeated the Rays, 5-3, with 44,706 watching.
By losing, the Rays (29-30) dropped the series to fall back under .500 for the season as they head home to begin a six-game homestand against the Angels and Nationals. The Rays are now 1-7 in their last eight road games.
Mark Teixeira began Monday night's homer parade in the first inning, when he deposited a 1-1 Sonnanstine offering into the upper deck. Nick Swisher increased the Yankees' lead in the second with a two-run shot, and Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter added solo homers in the sixth and eighth innings, respectively.
Teixera's home run went to right field, but the rest of the Yankees' homers went to right-center, where the ball seems to carry well.
"I just think that we did not hit enough balls to right-center," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's that conveyor belt that goes out there. You just get it onto that conveyor belt, and you're in pretty good shape. Although, they hit some balls really well. But there were some conveyor-belt homers going out there, too. We just have to go to right-center more often."
The four home runs surrendered by Sonnanstine were a career high for the right-hander, who saw his record fall to 4-6 on the season. His road woes continued as well. Away from Tropicana Field, he is 1-6, with an 8.55 ERA.
"It's probably one of the best lineups in baseball right now," said Sonnanstine of the Yankees. "I made a few mistakes up in the zone, and they really made me pay for them."
When asked if he knew right away that the hits were homers, Sonnanstine replied, "Teixeira's, for sure, the other ones I wasn't sure about."
Damon's home run broke a 3-3 tie.
"That was a curveball I was trying to bury," said Sonnanstine. "I think I tried to overthrow it, and it resulted in a hanging changeup at the top of the zone, and it just carried out of here."
Despite the four home runs, Maddon was pleased with Sonnastine's performance.
"I thought he threw really well," Maddon said. "He had good stuff, he pitched really well. I was very pleased with him tonight. I thought he had himself a very good ballgame. He looked crisp.
"I thought he pitched with aggressiveness. I thought after the first couple of innings, those first couple of homers -- Teixeira's was a bomb -- he really settled in. The one by Swisher hurt, but he kind of fell into a nice rhythm after that."
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte limited the Rays to three runs over six innings to pick up his sixth win of the season. All of the Rays' runs came in the fourth, on an RBI single by Michel Hernandez and a two-run homer by Gabe Kapler, his first of the season.
"There's always something positive you can take out of a loss, and I felt good about my overall approach," Kapler said.
Kapler has been mired in a season-long slump, yet Maddon has hung by the veteran. So Maddon felt encouraged by the blast.
"I've seen Gabe for a while in the Major Leagues," Maddon said. "There are times he gets extremely cold, and there are times he gets extremely hot. Let's hope that was the beginning right there."
New York closer Mariano Rivera, who was tagged for the loss in Saturday's 9-7 Rays win, came on to pitch the ninth and, for the second consecutive day, retired the Rays to pick up his 14th save of the season.
The Rays won their first two games at the new Yankee Stadium this season, so New York manager Joe Girardi was pleased with the series win.
"The way we lost some of the games to them, it feels good to beat them," Girardi said. "We know that they are very talented, and they are the team that represented the American League last year. So any time you can put a little distance between teams, it's important."
Meanwhile, Maddon could not find fault with his team.
"I thought we played well," he said. "We came up here a little banged up. The first game, we did really well. Yesterday's game was a tough one to let get away. And they beat us tonight. But I think we held our own very well here. Again, we're missing some key components. So let's get healthy and get back here later in the season and see what it looks like."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.