ST. PETERSBURG — The use of instant replay for the first time in major-league baseball to review Alex Rodriguez's ninth-inning home run Wednesday was a case for history.
The Rays' replay of their poor performance from the night before was a cause for concern.
The Rays lost, again, to the Yankees 8-4 on Wednesday and looked bad in doing so, the defense uncharacteristically shaky, the offense again quiet and the starting pitching ineffective before a Tropicana Field crowd of 25,215.
"Our guys are fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're playing with a lot of intensity. We're just making some mistakes right now that we have to eradicate."
The Rays and Yankees made history with two outs in the ninth when Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Troy Percival — after a potential third strike that wasn't called — that went over the top of leftfield foul pole and struck the catwalk behind it in foul territory.
It was called a home run on the field, Maddon sought consultation and clarification and after a 2-minute, 15-second visit to the replay room and review, the call was confirmed.
"It was kind of cool to see it actually went down for the first time in history," Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "It would have been great if we did it, instead of the opposing team."
The Rays (84-53) lost consecutive games at home for the first time since April 14-15 (to the Yankees). They lost their first series since the All-Star break (snapping a major-league season-best 13-series streak).
And, two games into September, they've lost two games off their AL East lead, down from five to a perilous three over the Red Sox, who pulled off another inspiring win, coming back from a 4-0 seventh-inning deficit.
Pena insisted they aren't concerned about the Red Sox gaining and the lead dwindling.
"We don't care about that right now," Pena said. "When we start worrying what's going on with the Boston Red Sox or where we are in the standings or trying to protect the record or protect the lead, we're getting our minds off of what we should be focusing on which is playing our game."
The problem the past two nights is that they haven't been playing their game, and the Yankees — battling to keep their faint postseason hopes alive — have.
"They're putting a lot of pressure on our defense on the infield," Maddon said. "They've been running hard to first base. They're playing our game right now. They're beating us with our own stick."
The Rays were down 6-1 early after Edwin Jackson's shortest start of the season (31/3 innings, 10 hits, six runs, and one funny line: "Too bad instant replay doesn't count for infield hits"), got to within 6-3 and had a chance for more with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth, but Willy Aybar lined into a double play and Eric Hinske popped out.
The Rays are showing signs of frustration, Aybar whacking his bat on the ground and breaking it in half, Pena slamming his helmet after Johnny Damon caught his seventh-inning drive at the wall.
"I'm sure there was a little frustration among the group there tonight," Maddon said. "And I like it. Just so we're able to temper it and understand. It just indicates how much they care, and that's a good thing."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Replay gets first test
A ninth-inning homer by Alex Rodriguez is upheld in MLB's first use of instant replay. 4C
Waiting for Longoria
The rookie All-Star isn't expected back for next week's Fenway visit. 4C
Photo gallery online
View more photos from the Rays' 8-4 loss to the Yankees at rays.tampabay.com.
Print out our newest Rays cheer card at rays.tampabay.com, then take it to tonight's game against the Yankees.
Call it a quibble …
The Rays obviously have done a lot right this season, but hitting in the clutch isn't one of them. Their batting average in some key clutch categories, with their AL rank:
Stat Avg. Rank
Runners on .256 13th
Scoring position .245 14th
RISP, 2 out .227 11th
Bases loaded .283 9th