Rays dropped at the Trop by Yanks

Rays dropped at the Trop by Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG -- A.J. Burnett had the stuff of no-hitters Tuesday night, only the luck didn't go his way. Nevertheless, the Yankees right-hander was the difference to hand the Rays a 7-2 loss in front of a crowd of 36,973 at Tropicana Field.

A night after the Rays scored 12 runs on 14 hits in the first six innings of Monday night's game, they scored no runs and did not so much as threaten to get a hit in the first six innings against Burnett.

Evan Longoria said the Rays were well aware of what Burnett was hatching on the mound.

"Obviously, if you're in the game or in the stands watching the game, you know he's got a no-hitter going," Longoria said. "It's just kind of like when your pitcher has a no-hitter going. You don't want to say, 'Hey man, you've got one going.' It's kind of visa-versa. We all know, but it's unspoken. We say, 'Get a hit,' but nobody says, 'Listen, he's got a no-hitter going.' It's just understood."

The Rays finally broke Burnett's spell in the seventh when successive singles by Carl Crawford, Longoria and Carlos Pena produced their first run. Pat Burrell's sacrifice fly drove home the Rays' second run to tie the game at 2.

"It wasn't meant to be," Burnett said. "Carl had a good at-bat there. I felt good. I felt I repeated my delivery pretty well. I was putting the ball where I wanted to. You have to go one pitch at a time. Everything was just clicking."

The Yankees got back to work in the eighth when Brett Gardner hit a leadoff double off J.P. Howell and Derek Jeter followed with a single before Mark Teixeira's sacrifice fly put the Yankees on top, 3-2. Burnett pitched a scoreless eighth and came away with his second win of the season.

"He was pretty good for eight solid innings," Longoria said. "He gave up a couple there in the seventh, but before that, obviously he had the no-hitter going. It's tough as a hitter to give in and tip your hat to a guy -- but give credit where credit is due. He made a lot of good pitches and stayed out of the heart of the plate. And sometimes that's just the way it goes."

Longoria pointed to Burnett's ability to get ahead in the count with his 95 mph fastball as the key to his performance.

"He's got a real good curveball to go along with it," Longoria said. "And he was throwing that for strikes consistently, also. And when he wanted to throw it 0-0, he was dropping it in for a strike. And then late in the count, he was getting ahead. He had a lot of 1-2 counts, [that's when] he's able to go to the nastier one, where he can bounce it in the dirt. And you saw, probably 10 of us struck out on that one."

Matt Garza started for the Rays and escaped a potentially big inning in the first when the Yankees loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. But Garza retired the next three hitters, allowing only a sacrifice fly to Jorge Posada that put the Yankees on the board.

"That's one of the lessons learned when you start pitching," Garza said. "When a guy gets to third with no outs, leave it there. You count that run as already in, and you keep it small after that."

Nick Swisher homered on a 2-2 Garza offering leading off the fourth to put the Yankees up, 2-0.

"I gave him a cookie -- I threw a two-seamer in and it just tailed over the middle of the plate, his hot zone down and in," Garza said. "And he made me pay for it. It happens, just wipe it off and get the next guy."

Garza managed to battle Burnett to a tie, with the Rays starter leaving the game after seven innings with the score knotted at 2.

"Just trying to outlast the other guy," Garza said. "Shoot, he had his stuff tonight, spotting 94 and 95 [mph] on the black. My job was just to keep it close. Keep it close."

Garza kept it close, as did his teammates -- until a four-run Yankees ninth, highlighted by Derek Jeter's three-run homer, put the game on ice.

"We finally got back into it later, but couldn't hold on," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "... Just typical of the [American League] East. So many good pitchers in the division."

On a night when the Rays received their rings for being the 2008 AL champions, a loss felt like the wrong ending.

"It happens," Garza said. "You just tip your hat to the other guy and say, 'We'll get you tomorrow.'"

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