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Tampa Bay Rays beat New York Yankees 8-6

ST. PETERSBURG — Friday was about Carlos Peña coming home. Saturday was Luke Scott coming out. And two games into the season, it looks like the Rays have come up with the improved offense they were seeking.

With their 8-6 win over the Yankees, the Rays have a two-day total of 15 runs, 22 hits and a .333 average that, at least initially, idles the concerns over their impotent spring, in which they hit a major-league low .231. Put another way: Last season they needed 63 innings to total 15 runs; this year they've done it in 16.

"It's a great start," Scott said. "Absolutely, it's a great start for our team. Some good things have happened the past two days."

Scott, in his first start at DH for the Rays, drove in three runs with three hits. Matt Joyce, rebounding from Friday's 4-K performance, knocked in three more, including a homer. Eight Rays reached base, seven scored.

"We're swinging it," starter David Price said. "It's fun to watch."

"The offense has been phenomenal," Joyce said. "We're really excited. We've been aggressive on the right pitches and disciplined in taking some walks when need be. We obviously put up a lot of runs in the first two games. I think that's a little bit of a surprise to a lot of people."

But not to the Rays, manager Joe Maddon insisting throughout the spring that what mattered most was having quality at-bats, specifically not expanding their strike zones.

"We're working the process well," he said.

Well, that, and the signings of Peña and Scott — for a combined commitment of more than $13 million — has helped a bit, too.

"We added some big guys to the lineup," Joyce said. "When you add guys like Luke Scott and Carlos Peña, it really makes everyone else around them better, and I think it's one of those cases that that's happened."

The offense wasn't the whole story, before a second straight full house at Tropicana Field, only the second time in franchise history they sold out the first two home games.

Price did enough to snap his personal seven-start winless streak, working into the seventh and allowing only two runs and striking out five but allowing five hits and four walks, unhappy with his fastball command. "I was very fortunate to come away with a win and only two runs," he said.

Also the defense, which turned three double plays, two keyed by second base defensive-replacement Sean Rodriguez, who has the distinction of being the starting shortstop but also, in Maddon's view, "the best second baseman in the American League defensively."

And Fernando Rodney, who threw one pitch to end what suddenly became a tense night, as bullpen newcomer Josh Lueke couldn't close out the ninth with a six-run lead, forcing Maddon to use Joel Peralta (who allowed a three-run homer to Nick Swisher), Jake McGee (who walked Robinson Cano to bring the tying run to the plate) and Rodney (who got Alex Rodriguez to ground out to end it).

Scott is coming off July surgery on his right shoulder and isn't yet at full strength, nor able to play every day. But what he did toward the end of the spring, and on Saturday, with a two-run single and a well-laced double, provides a glimpse the Rays enjoy.

"I don't know how close I feel; I don't feel I'm there yet," he said. "Today was actually a good day."

With eight runs and 10 hits on the board and two wins in the standings against the Yankees, it was a very good day all around.

"We obviously have more potential offensively this year than we have the past years, so to see it come together early in the season is great, and obviously to have the thought that it is there," Evan Longoria said. "Now it's a matter of being consistent."

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

Rays 8

Yankees 6

Tampa Bay Rays beat New York Yankees 8-6 04/07/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 8, 2012 1:16pm]
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