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Tampa Bay Rays batter Mariano Rivera, move back above .500 by beating Yankees

NEW YORK — There was so much wrong about the way the Rays played Saturday.

They made four errors, three on throws by catcher Dioner Navarro. They didn't execute, including a failed eighth-inning double play that cost them the lead. They walked seven. They needed five relievers to get 10 outs and gave up a two-run advantage in the eighth.

And that just made them feel so much better when they ended up winning the Yankee Stadium matinee 9-7.

"I just loved the way we kept coming back and fighting back," manager Joe Maddon said.

As odd as all the mistakes were, how they ended up winning was even a better story.

They beat previously invincible Yankees closer Mariano Rivera for a second straight time, scoring four and watching him get pulled.

The decisive run was scored by pinch-running pitcher Andy Sonnanstine. They went ahead when Joe Dillon, who'd had three hits in a game once in three seasons, capped his second straight three-hit day. And Randy Choate, who went 198 big-league appearances over 10 years without a save, got the final out for his third straight.

So how would you explain all that happened?

"What was the question again?" replied centerfielder B.J. Upton, sitting on a clubhouse couch staring blankly at a TV.

Exactly.

The bottom line: The Rays won their fourth straight, matching their season high, and moved a game over .500, at 29-28, for the second time since being 4-3 on April 13, and are 4½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.

A day that started with an appealing matchup between lefties David Price, the Rays' rookie phenom, and CC Sabathia, the Yankees' highly paid ace, turned into a test of patience and wills.

"That's why we are who we are," Navarro said. "You guys know we're never going to back down. We're always going to play hard until the game's over, and that's what we did."

They came back from a 2-0 hole to tie, then went from down 3-2 to up 5-3 when Willy Aybar, who made a couple of the fielding miscues, hit a three-run homer.

When the Yankees tied it in the eighth, they came back again, this time off Rivera, whom they beat May 7 when Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria hit the first back-to-back homers he has allowed.

Saturday was more painful, as they did it more slowly and softly.

Ben Zobrist, facing Rivera for the first time but thinking about what the Rays did to him the last time, opened the ninth with a triple then scored on Dillon's single. With two outs and Dillon on third, Longoria pinch hit, and the Yanks intentionally walked him despite his sore hamstring, leading to Sonnanstine's cameo and bringing the warming-up Upton to the plate.

He said he was "kind of going up there to make them pay for it," and he did, singling in a run and extending his hitting streak to nine. Sonnanstine scored from second on Crawford's single and Upton on Alex Rodriguez's error.

The Rays needed them all as Dan Wheeler gave up two to start the ninth, and even the end was shaky as Upton broke in on Jorge Posada's drive with two outs and one on, then recovered to grab the final out.

"It's not the way it was written up or drawn up, absolutely not," Maddon said. "We made some mistakes, and we were able to fight through them and that's great."

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

Tampa Bay Rays batter Mariano Rivera, move back above .500 by beating Yankees 06/06/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 7, 2009 7:45am]
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