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New York Yankees impressed with Tampa Bay Rays, not discouraged about sweep

Jeremy Hellickson throws out Chris Stewart in the fifth inning of a game that capped a frustrating weekend for the Yankees.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Jeremy Hellickson throws out Chris Stewart in the fifth inning of a game that capped a frustrating weekend for the Yankees.

ST. PETERSBURG — The back pages of the New York tabloids may be ablaze today, painting a dire picture of the Yankees' first 0-3 start since 1998.

After all, the Yankees have lost four or more to start the season only twice in their storied history.

But despite getting swept by the Rays, the Yankees aren't pressing the panic button, saying the frustrating series is just magnified more since it's the first one. And don't forget, New York did go on to win the World Series in 1998.

"We're disappointed," starter Phil Hughes said. "But, at the same time, we're not going to act like it's the end of the world."

That being said, the Yankees left impressed with the Rays, who have beaten them seven consecutive times dating to last season.

"They put it on us," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "So we'll remember that."

The Yankees didn't feel as if they were overmatched, saying that they swung the bats well — often hitting right into well-positioned Rays players — and got an encouraging, yet short, outing by Hughes on Sunday.

"They were just a little better, all weekend," first baseman Mark Teixeira said.

Said outfielder Curtis Granderson: "It's one of those things where there's a lot of bounces and we didn't seem to get a lot of them. They got a lot of them, plus the things that they did well on top of that. But baseball is baseball and things are going to turn real quick. Nobody is hanging their heads over here."

What did make the Yankees scratch their heads was how often the Rays used defensive shifts, moving their infielders around for most of New York's lineup, robbing them of at least 3-4 hits on Saturday alone, Swisher said.

"That's a kind of defense I've never seen before," he said. "I don't think anyone has ever seen that, especially to everybody, not just any certain individuals."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said they knew the Rays would be improved, with free agent acquisitions Carlos Peña (two homers, seven RBIs) and Luke Scott providing some pop to support an already stout pitching staff.

"Anyone who thinks this is going to be easy is kidding themselves," Teixeira said. "And it showed this weekend."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

New York Yankees impressed with Tampa Bay Rays, not discouraged about sweep 04/08/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 8, 2012 10:26pm]

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