Series: Game 1 of 2

NY Yankees leads 1-0 (as of 4/2)

Game 1: Monday, April 2
Tampa Bay5Final
NY Yankees9
Game 2: Wednesday, April 4
Tampa BayPostponed
NY Yankees
Game 2: Thursday, April 5
Tampa Bay7Final
NY Yankees6

Devil Rays 5

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Yankees 9

(1-0, 1-0 home)

    1:05 PM ET, April 2, 2007

    Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York 

    123456789 R H E
    TB 010040000 5 9 0
    NYY 20010213 - 9 12 2

    W: L. Vizcaino (1-0)

    L: B. Stokes (0-1)

    An unlikely pick for opening day, Pavano hopes to start over


    The New York Yankees have won nine straight AL East titles, but that streak certainly isn't enough for a franchise still looking for their first World Series crown since 2000.

    The Yankees begin their long march toward October when they open the season at home against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Monday.

    The Yankees were near the top of the majors in almost every offensive statistical category as they went 97-65 in 2006, tied for the best record in baseball.

    That offense disappeared in the playoffs, however, as New York scored six runs and managed only 19 hits in losing the last three games of its division series against Detroit. The Yankees were eliminated in four games, their second consecutive first-round exit.

    The primary scapegoat in both of those series was third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is 4-for-41 with one extra-base hit and no RBI in his last 12 postseason games. He had just 166 hits last season, his lowest total since he became a full-time player in 1996.

    As much as Rodriguez's playoff failures have been discussed in New York, so has his contract status. Rodriguez has four seasons left in the record $252 million, 10-year agreement he signed with Texas before the 2001 season, but he can opt out of the deal after this season.

    "Winning is the only thing that matters," Rodriguez said. "I can go out and hit .350 and do all these individual things. If we don't win, nobody cares, and neither do I.

    "I've already done everything personally in the game that there is to do. The only thing that's left is winning a world championship, and that's why I'm in New York. I'm pretty obsessed with it."

    The Yankees, who sport a payroll nearing $200 million, have always been known for being obsessed with winning. They again made significant changes this winter to try to guarantee an October resurgence, signing left-handers Kei Igawa from Japan and Andy Pettitte, one of the stalwarts who helped the Yankees win four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000.

    "I think we've got a bunch of professionals that have a job to do," manager Joe Torre said. "I have a sense that we're going to be pretty serious about getting it done."

    The serious question about the Yankees is their starting rotation, which is suffering from some recent injuries. New York ace Chien-Ming Wang, who went 19-6 with a 3.63 ERA last season, is expected to be sidelined until at least late April with a strained right hamstring. Pettitte, meanwhile, suffered from back spasms this spring, but is expected to start Wednesday against Tampa Bay.

    In Wang's absence, the opening day start goes to Carl Pavano, who's also had his fair share of injury troubles. Pavano hasn't pitched in a major league game since June 27, 2005 because of shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and rib injuries.

    "Not everything goes as planned," said Pavano, who is entering the third season of a four-year, $39.95 million contract. "You're going to have times of adversity. You're going to have times that challenge you. It's how you rise to those occasions."

    Pavano is 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA against the Devil Rays in five career starts, although he has dropped his last two outings against them.

    The Yankees have traditionally dominated Tampa Bay, which has consistently featured one of baseball's lowest payrolls since its expansion season of 1998.

    The Devil Rays finished with a MLB-worst 61-101 record in 2006, making it nine seasons with 70 wins or fewer in the franchise's nine-year existence. They ranked last in the majors in runs, hits, RBI, batting average and on-base percentage last season.

    The early schedule isn't doing Tampa Bay any favors either, as the Devil Rays open the new season with 10 of their first 13 games on the road. They went 20-61 on the road last year, including a 3-33 record after July 1.

    The Devil Rays are hoping that a strong nucleus of young talent will help them avoid another 100-loss season in 2007.

    Carl Crawford, 25, hit .305 with 18 home runs last season, joining Rogers Hornsby as the only two players to increase their home run total and batting average in five consecutive seasons. The left fielder also led the American League in stolen bases for the third time in four seasons, finishing with 58.

    Rocco Baldelli (25 years old) and Delmon Young (21) round out one of the most promising young outfields in the majors. Tampa Bay will need plenty of production from these up-and-comers if they want to be competitive in the loaded AL East.

    "There's no ducking anyone. Before the season is over, you play everyone," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been playing well lately. We're ready for it."

    Left-hander Scott Kazmir -- another one of Tampa Bay's rising stars at just 23 years old -- will pitch his second consecutive season opener for the Devil Rays. Kazmir was roughed up on opening day last season, suffering the loss after giving up six runs in four innings against Baltimore.

    Kazmir went 10-8 with a career-best 3.24 ERA in 24 starts. He was shut down in August with soreness in his pitching shoulder, but had a strong spring and appears to be ready to regain the form that made him an All-Star in 2006.

    Kazmir is 1-3 with a 3.29 ERA against the Yankees in five career appearances, including four starts.

    The Yankees went 13-5 against the Devil Rays in 2006, including a 7-2 record at home. They lead the all-time series 101-47.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Gameday Matchup

     Tampa BayNew York
    Current StreakW1W2
    Last 103-76-4

    Pitching Matchup

    Tampa BayNew York
    S. Kazmir
    13-9, 3.48 ERA

    Last Game:
    9/27 at TB
    6.0 IP, 1 ER
    Dec = ND
    C. Pavano
    1-0, 4.76 ERA

    Last Game:
    4/9 vs NYY
    7.0 IP, 2 ER
    Dec = Win

    Gameday Lineups

    NO.Tampa BayNew York
    1. C. Crawford, LF J. Damon, CF
    2. B. Zobrist, SS D. Jeter, SS
    3. R. Baldelli, DH B. Abreu, RF
    4. T. Wigginton, 1B A. Rodriguez, 3B
    5. D. Young, RF J. Giambi, DH
    6. A. Iwamura, 3B H. Matsui, LF
    7. D. Navarro, C J. Posada, C
    8. E. Dukes, CF R. Cano, 2B
    9. B. Upton, 2B J. Phelps, 1B