Rays handle Yanks, strengthen hold on first

Rays handle Yanks, strengthen hold on first

NEW YORK -- A starter's pistol should have been used to begin Wednesday night's contest, given the manner in which the Rays ran the Yankees dizzy.

After nine innings, Tampa Bay had rounded the 360-foot clay track 10 times to claim a 10-6 win at Yankee Stadium with a crowd of 43,283 watching.

"We know what they're capable of," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "They're a great team, they like to run, they're aggressive. ... They're going to force you to throw them out. That's part of their game. They're going to run and keep running. They're pretty similar to [the Angels]. They go first to third, they're going to be aggressive. That's part of their game."

By winning, the Rays won their fifth consecutive game, their seventh of eight and their 12th in their past 16. In the meantime, they maintained the Major League's best record at 29-11 on the season, which also gives them the best record through 40 games since the 2002 Red Sox. And, impressively, they are 16-4 on the road.

Tampa Bay stole four bases in the fourth alone, six on the evening, and they scored on a sacrifice fly -- from second base. And steals king Carl Crawford had no swipes. But those statistics could not properly quantify the manner in which the Rays used their overall team speed to have their way against their American League East rival. Basically, the Rays looked younger and more vibrant than the defending World Series champions.

"That's just how we play," said Maddon when asked if the Rays' plan Wednesday night had been to pick on Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli. "When we get different kinds of opportunities, we try to take advantage of them. ... You look at what they're willing to give you, and you just try to take advantage of it. We try to do that every night."

Appropriately enough -- and no doubt coincidentally -- Springsteen's "Born to Run" blared over the stadium's speakers before the Rays stepped to the plate for their final at-bat in the ninth.

"Speed game, we're always looking to steal," Crawford said. "Guys just haven't been on base lately, so we haven't really had the chance to run like that. But we definitely know that's a part of our game."

Like Crawford said, while the Rays did run, they also hit from beginning to end. Jason Bartlett led off the game with a home run off A.J. Burnett to give Tampa Bay a lead while collecting the first of the Rays' 15 hits on an evening that twice saw them score four in an inning.

In the fourth, John Jaso doubled home two, Crawford doubled home another and Evan Longoria had an RBI single that put the Rays up, 6-0.

Leading, 6-2, after seven, the Tampa Bay couldn't resist adding more in its favorite frame, the eighth -- the team's most productive inning. Sean Rodriguez had an RBI double, Bartlett and Ben Zobrist had RBI singles and Carlos Pena had a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 10-2. The Rays have now scored 42 runs in the eighth inning this season.

Wade Davis balanced out the speed and hitting with a solid performance that saw him hold the Yankees to two runs in 5 2/3 innings to pick up his fourth win of the season.

Wednesday night's game was billed as a showdown between the two best teams in baseball. Save for a shaky performance by Andy Sonnanstine that opened the door for the Yankees to score four in the final frame, the Rays played an immaculate game.

"I thought we played a great game tonight," Maddon said. "We did everything right. ... I just loved our effort, our execution. I thought we played really good baseball tonight."

And even though Maddon called Wednesday night's win "just one game," he was pleased to claim a win at Yankee Stadium, where the Rays have had trouble winning -- whether they were playing at the original Yankee Stadium or the new model.

"We've done pretty well on the road this year to this point," Maddon said. "To come here, where we have not played well with any kind of consistency, it's also very important to do that. I just want to teach us a lesson.

"I know that [the Yankees are] banged up right now, and I understand that. But nevertheless, you saw the kind of pressure they can put on you at the end of the game. Regardless of who's in their lineup, they have a lot of good players. ... We need to play better baseball here, and we did it today."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.