TOKYO (AP) -- Fans in the Tokyo Dome seemed surprised. The ones
back in New York must have been shocked.
On the other side of the world, playing when the rest of
baseball was in bed, the New York Yankees looked lost.
Jose Cruz Jr. hit a tying home run that sparked a comeback, Tino
Martinez put away his former team with his 300th career homer and
the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays roughed up Mike Mussina for an 8-3
victory Tuesday over the Yankees in the major league season opener.
People back home got up in the middle of the night to see this?
"Hopefully, it's 5 a.m. and not many people were watching,"
Alex Rodriguez said, thinking of when the game began, New York
The team that dominates the AL East couldn't do much in the Far
East, getting outhit 15-7 and playing sluggishly in the field.
A-Rod's first game in pinstripes won't be remembered fondly in
the Bronx. He took called third strikes his first two times up
before doubling and popping out. But he did make three sparkling
defensive plays at third base, the position he switched to when
Texas traded him to New York last month.
Hideki Matsui had the first hit of the major league season, a
first-inning double in front of the fans who adore their homegrown
hero, and he scored on Jason Giambi's two-run homer to left. Gary
Sheffield also had a checked-swing RBI double in his first game for
Aside from that, the defending American League champions seemed
jetlagged against the younger Devil Rays.
"We don't look like we're that alive, yet," said Mussina, who
hasn't slept well since making the 7,250-mile trip last week from
Tampa, Fla. "We need a little life, and we just didn't have it."
At the sushi stands and sake bars in the Big Egg, the talk was
about baseball's most famous club. Yet after circling halfway
around the globe, all those All-Stars fell flat against one of
baseball's least-known teams.
"I'm sure that there are a lot of people driving to work right
now saying, `Who are those guys?" Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli
In the second opener played by major league teams in Japan,
Mussina looked as if he would have rather been back home in
Montoursville, Pa. Trying to become the 100th pitcher with 200
wins, he gave up a broken-bat, two-run single to Toby Hall in the
fourth, then let Cruz tie it 3-all in the sixth with his homer.
Martinez, Julio Lugo and Toby Hall followed with consecutive
doubles for a 5-3 lead and chased Mussina, who took the loss.
Paul Quantrill got three outs on three pitches to end the
inning, but left after his fourth pitch, when Rodriguez banged into
his right knee trying to field Rocco Baldelli's bunt single leading
off the seventh.
Felix Heredia let the game spin away, making a wild pickoff
throw for a two-base error before his first pitch, then allowing a
single to Aubrey Huff and a two-run homer to Martinez, playing his
first game for his hometown team.
"Obviously, to beat the Yankees is great," said Martinez, who
helped New York win four World Series titles from 1996-00. "The
fans here love them, but we made them cheer for us, too."
Victor Zambrano got the win for the Devil Rays, who have
finished last in all six seasons they've been in the majors. He
allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.
The hosts did their best to duplicate the atmosphere of games
back home, with some twists, of course.
Even though New York was the visiting team, the Yankees wore
their famous pinstripes -- the Hall of Fame couldn't find any
records of them having done that before. Both teams had ads on
their uniform sleeves and helmets, a repeat of what baseball did
during the Mets-Cubs series here four years ago.
Actor Billy Crystal wished Yankees manager Joe Torre good luck
in a pregame telephone call, and former New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi threw out
ceremonial first pitches.
Women in pink-and-green kimonos presented Torre and Devil Rays
manager Lou Piniella with bouquets. Many of the ads on the outfield
walls were in Japanese kanji script, and women vendors walked
through the aisles selling whiskey.
Flashbulbs popped whenever Matsui walked to the plate. During 10
seasons in this ballpark with the Yomiuri Giants, he became Japan's
biggest baseball star.
Fans saw two teams at major league extremes. New York, flush
with cash, opened the season with a major league-record payroll of
$182.8 million, more than six times that of Tampa Bay, among the
two lowest in the majors at $29.2 million.
Nine of New York's 10 starters were former All-Stars -- the only
All-Star in the Devil Rays' lineup was Martinez.
After the game, New York's clubhouse was subdued. Special
adviser Reggie Jackson thought about how owner George Steinbrenner,
who did not make the trip, would react.
"He won't be happy," Jackson said in perhaps an
In the other clubhouse, Piniella mentioned that the players of
the game were rewarded.
"They gave Lugo a check and Toby a check," he said. "Where's
the check for the manager?"
Kevin Brown pitches for the Yankees against Jeremi Gonzalez
on Wednesday. ... The rest of the major league teams start opening
Sunday. ... Dropped to the ninth spot in the Yankees' lineup, Kenny
Lofton tripled his first time up and flied out to the warning track
in his second at-bat. ... Quantrill told Torre he should be OK, but
the Yankees won't know for sure until Wednesday. ... Yankees CF
Bernie Williams played six innings in the outfield and went 2-for-6
with two RBI in a minor league game Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. It was
the second time Williams has played in the outfield since having
his appendix removed Feb. 26. "It's real positive," Williams
said. "I've got two good days under my belt playing the outfield
and getting some decent at-bats. I'm a little inconsistent
(hitting), but I'm seeing the ball well." The Yankees have not
ruled out Williams returning for the North American opener April 6
at Tampa Bay. ... New York 1B Travis Lee (left shoulder) hit off a
tee and took grounders. He could resume batting practice in the
next couple days.