ST. PETERSBURG — Carlos Peña was the biggest star of the Rays' 7-6 walkoff victory over the Yankees on Friday.
But an all-hands-on-deck effort by the bullpen helped save the day, six relievers combining for four hitless innings.
"That's who you have to give all the credit to," Rays shortstop Sean Rodriguez said. "Without them putting up those zeroes, we don't have a chance."
Said catcher Jose Molina: "That's why we won the game."
Starter James Shields, who allowed six runs over five innings, said the bullpen "picked up the slack."
Without closer Kyle Farnsworth, who is on the disabled list, the Rays went by committee. Every reliever except the recently called up Josh Lueke pitched.
"Down there, it's like everybody wants the ball, no matter the situation," veteran right-hander Joel Peralta said.
Lefty J.P. Howell has said he finally has his confidence and health back after 2010 shoulder surgery, and it looked that way Friday. He retired left-handed hitting sluggers Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano on infield popouts. Howell got Granderson on a curveball, Cano on an inside fastball.
"I felt really good," he said.
Wade Davis, moved to the bullpen after losing out on the fifth starter spot during the spring, then delivered a solid first appearance, retiring three of the four batters he faced between the sixth and seventh.
"It was good to get that first one in there," he said.
With one on and two out in the seventh, Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned sinkerballer Burke Badenhop, who was acquired in the offseason from the Marlins. Badenhop did his job, getting catcher Russell Martin to hit a grounder to third, but Evan Longoria bobbled it for an error.
That's when hard-throwing lefty Jake McGee came in to face the lefty Brett Gardner. Though McGee walked Gardner to load the bases, he bounced back to get Derek Jeter to ground out.
Each of McGee's three outs came on sliders, an encouraging sign for him as he tries to develop a secondary pitch to complement his mid 90s fastball.
"That's big," McGee said. "It's a difference from last year already."
Peralta took over for McGee with one out in the eighth but had a tough, 23-pitch outing, walking both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera after getting ahead 1-and-2. He did the same with Nick Swisher before striking him out on a 90 mph fastball.
"I just kept battling," Peralta said.
Right-hander Fernando Rodney, a former Tigers and Angels closer, picked up the win in his Rays debut, a 1-2-3 ninth.
"I loved the bullpen," Maddon said.
"I think the pen is going to be one of our strengths."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]