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Andy Sonnanstine allows four home runs as Tampa Bay Rays lose to New York Yankees

NEW YORK — Getting Evan Longoria back in the lineup didn't help the Rays on Monday. Neither did the blue jerseys. Nor the less-conventional motivational technique of removing hirsute bullpen coach Bobby Ramos' back hair in the middle of the clubhouse.

Not when Andy Sonnanstine is leaving balls up in the launching pad of new Yankee Stadium.

The Rays lost the game 5-3 and, again, whatever forward progress they thought they had generated, dropping two of three and back under .500 at 29-30.

Sonnanstine allowed a career-high four home runs — the 101st, 102nd, 104th and 105th in 29 games at the $1.5 billion palace that apparently came equipped with a jet stream, or something else that sends routine-looking fly balls over the fence, especially to the right side of the monuments. The Rays hit the 103rd, a two-run shot to left by Gabe Kapler that briefly tied the score at 3.

"I just think we did not hit enough balls to right-center," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There's that conveyor belt that just goes out there. If you can just get it on that conveyor belt, you're in pretty good shape."

The stadium has become part of the story. There has been at least one homer hit in each game there — the only other stadium in which that has happened this season is, coincidentally, Tropicana Field — and Monday's was the 10th game with at least five. The 105 homers are by far the most at any major-league park.

"Anything that goes up to rightfield has a chance," Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "That's what it looks like."

All four homers off Sonnanstine went that way. There was no doubt about a mammoth first-inning blast by Mark Teixeira, who passed Carlos Peña for the AL lead with 18. And only a little about a two-run shot by Nick Swisher in the second that put the Yankees up 3-0.

The Rays tied it with a three-run third, capped by Kapler's first homer. Then the Yanks made good use of their new homefield advantage.

Upton had a pretty good view, and he didn't think either of the other two homers would have gone out elsewhere. Derek Jeter's eighth-inning drive would have been a double, he said, and Johnny Damon's sixth-inning fly looked like a sure out. "It kind of got out to the outfield and just kept going," he said. "Like off the bat it was an out and it got to the outfield and it was a no-doubter."

Sonnanstine wasn't sure what to think.

He pitched well in New York on May 6, not allowing any homers in 71/3 innings, and didn't want to change his approach despite the staggering totals. And aside from the homers, he pitched pretty well, allowing only two other hits and two walks while working into the eighth. (The Yankees didn't have a plate appearance with a runner in scoring position.)

"I had success here last time and didn't feel I pitched to the park that time, so I didn't want to overanalyze it and come in here and start throwing different things when I already had success," he said.

Maddon praised Sonnanstine for what he did and how he did it, noting his aggressiveness.

"I was really pleased with him," Maddon said. "He looked more like himself, doing all these different things. He pitched more like the Andy we've seen in the past."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Andy Sonnanstine allows four home runs as Tampa Bay Rays lose to New York Yankees 06/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 11:15am]
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