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Tampa Bay Rays win in first visit to new Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK — The Rays had a lot to like Wednesday about their first experience at the new Yankee Stadium.

They raved about the space, gushed over the amenities, marveled at how much it retained the look of the fabled cathedral it replaced. And they especially enjoyed the ending, rallying for a tense 4-3 win in a game that seemed lost.

They won because Carlos Peña hit his major league-leading 12th homer to open the 10th off lefty reliever Phil Coke, and Troy Percival closed it out by getting the last two outs with the tying run on third.

"I think we all needed that," reliever J.P. Howell said. "It was definitely something that was slipping out of our hands and we took it back. That says a lot."

"A very big confidence booster," Peña said.

That's because they nearly lost, blowing a 3-0 lead with five outs to go as Mark Teixeira hit a bases-loaded broken-bat double off Howell then having to sit through a half-hour rain delay.

The ninth was frustrating, as they wasted Dioner Navarro's leadoff single off Mariano Rivera as B.J. Upton (who argued) and Carl Crawford (who walked away in disgust) were called out on strikes and Evan Longoria went down swinging. Then the Yankees got runners to second and third, but Joe Nelson (with big help from Longoria on a slow roller) and Grant Balfour each got a huge out to extend it.

"I've always spoken about winning an extra-inning game on the road," manager Joe Maddon said. "I really like when your team does that. That really means a lot, where you just hang in there, you stay with it, you battle."

Peña had struck out his previous three at-bats but knocked Coke's 1-and-0 pitch over the rightfield wall.

"A nice way to end my night," Peña said. "All I was trying to do was stay in the moment, not let my previous at-bat carry over and stay present, and I was glad I was able to do that."

"It takes one at-bat to have a great night," Maddon said.

Percival got one out in the 10th, but Johnny Damon lashed a ball deep over Upton's head for a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. But Percival got Teixeira on a fly to right and Hideki Matsui on a fly to left.

The Rays (13-16) will seek to continue it tonight as they try for the fourth time for their first three-game winning streak. They're hoping things will be better on this side of 161st Street as they went 26-65, including two 0-for seasons, at the old place and won only four of 31 series.

The Rays took the 3-0 lead behind what Maddon termed a "fabulous" effort by No. 4 starter Andy Sonnanstine, who allowed just four hits through the first seven innings before two to the Nos. 8-9 hitters in the eighth. "Just the simple fact of being aggressive," Sonnanstine said.

It was also a good day for Crawford. He swiped a base for the ninth consecutive game, matching the third longest recorded streak and making it a perfect 20-for-20 this season, 22 straight going back to last season.

"Just a really hard-fought game," Maddon said.

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

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Tampa Bay Rays win in first visit to new Yankee Stadium 05/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 7:29am]

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