NEW YORK — As well as the Rays have played this season, manager Joe Maddon has said they have to play better here, at Yankee Stadium, to get where they want to go.
Their 10-6 win Wednesday over New York in front of 43,283, and an ESPN audience, was a pretty good start.
Tampa Bay (29-11) snapped its seven-game losing streak at Yankee Stadium and increased its lead in the AL East to a season-high four games heading into tonight's series finale. While the banged-up Yankees (25-15) keep losing games (three of four and seven of 11) and players (now catcher Jorge Posada), the Rays are gaining confidence.
Though it was just one game, Maddon hopes it can be the start of a similar breakthrough to the ones they had at Fenway Park and in Anaheim this season.
"I just want us to teach ourselves a lesson, that we can play well in this ballpark," said Maddon, whose club has won five straight and has the best record for a team after 40 games since Boston in 2002. "I really believe you have to play well in playoff venues. … This is a first step."
Rookie right-hander Wade Davis (4-3), making his first start at Yankee Stadium, had an impressive outing, albeit shorter than he would have liked. He gave up two runs over 52/3 innings but got plenty of support.
Jason Bartlett set the tone by leading off the game with a homer off A.J. Burnett, who lost for the first time in his past eight starts against the Rays. It was Bartlett's first homer of the season and third career leadoff home run, all at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays continued to put the pressure on, stealing six bases, beating out infield singles (Hank Blalock in the fourth) and hustling until the end (Ben Zobrist scoring from second on a sacrifice fly to deep center in the eighth).
"It's more of the liberal arts form of playing baseball," Maddon said. "It's not just about power, or just about speed. You really want to do all those different things. I want us to play every component of the game well."
"They like to run, they like to put pressure on the defense. They pitch well. We know what they're capable of," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said.
It was another total team effort, with every member of the starting lineup except Carlos Peña and Reid Brignac getting a hit. Evan Longoria continued his hot hitting (3-for-4 with two RBIs), and rookie catcher John Jaso impressed again, tying his career high with three hits, including a two-run double.
The Rays had a season-high matching 15 hits.
"That's what it's going to take to beat this team, everyone is going to have to contribute," leftfielder Carl Crawford said. "Tonight was a good example of that."
When Davis left, Lance Cormier worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. With two outs, Cormier fell behind 3-and-0 to Jeter but bounced back to get him to ground out to short.
"Cormier picked me up big-time there," Davis said.
The Rays picked up four runs in the eighth, and they turned out to be important as the Yankees rallied for four in the ninth off Andy Sonnanstine before Joaquin Benoit came in to get the final out. By then, most of the fans had filed out, making for a very empty (and quiet) place.
"You never see that here, ever," Brignac said, smiling. "That's a rarity. They stay until the last out, so it was a little different."
As was the result for the Rays.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]es.com.