Devil Rays score twice in eighth-inning rally

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Once again, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
showed how vulnerable George Steinbrenner's Yankees have become.

Alex Gonzalez homered and drove in four runs and Jonny Gomes
snapped an eighth-inning tie when when he scored on Tanyon Sturtze's wild pitch, giving the last-place Devil Rays a 7-6 victory over New York on Wednesday night.

The Yankees, who are 0-3-1 in series against Tampa Bay this season, wasted opportunities to pull within 3˝ games of first-place Boston in the AL East and tighten the AL wild-card race, which finds them trailing Oakland by 1˝ games.

"It's frustrating. This is where you really have to earn your money," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Things aren't always going to be wonderful, because then it would be easy to play this game. You really have to fight your way through times like this."

Gonzalez had a RBI single off Al Leiter in the second and tied the game with a run-scoring double off Sturtze (4-2) in the eighth.

Gomes, who had singled, raced home and to put the Devil Rays ahead for good when Sturtze threw a pitch over the head of catcher Jorge Posada. The rookie slid head-first, just ahead of Posada's throw to Sturtze at the plate.

"I threw one up and in the pitch before and I thought that's where we were going again," Sturtze said. "Jorgie thought we were going to go sinker. It was just miscommunication between me and him."

The Devil Rays rallied from a three-run deficit to win for the second straight night. Eduardo Perez tied Tuesday night's game with a ninth-inning homer off Mariano Rivera, and Gomes drew a bases-loaded walk in the 11th to finish a 4-3 victory.

"It just shows the Yankees -- with their history and with their payroll and with their All-Stars -- they're not bulletproof," Gomes said. "In between the lines, there's no salaries and no world champions. It's nine-on-nine, plus your bullpen and bench. It just
shows anyone can win."

With Steinbrenner, who lives in Tampa, cheering from his private box at Tropicana Field, Gary Sheffield hit a three-run homer off Mark Hendrickson to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning.

An inning later, Steinbrenner was shaking hands with fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures when the momentum shifted on Gonzalez's two-run homer off New York reliever Aaron Small.

The Boss was long gone by the eighth, when the Devil Rays wiped out a 6-5 lead the Yankees took on Posada's RBI single in the seventh. The victory improved Tampa Bay's record against New York to 9-4 this season.

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella joined Hall of Famer Fred Clarke and Torre as the only managers in major-league history with 1,500 wins and 1,500 hits.

"I told these kids, 'We're not going to win a pennant. We're not going to go to postseason, but this is not rope-a-dope. Let's get in the middle of the ring and throw some right hands, and let's get after it.' And that's really what they're doing," Piniella

Second baseman Robinson Cano opened the door for the winning rally with a two-base throwing error on Aubrey Huff's routine groundball leading off the bottom of the eighth.

Trever Miller (1-0) pitched one inning for the victory. Danys Baez worked the ninth to earn his 26th save.

Leiter allowed one hit through five innings but never seemed in control because he walked five and hit a batter in addition to giving up a RBI single to Gonzalez and sacrifice fly to Damon Hollins in the second.

The Yankees went to their bullpen after the left-hander, who has walked 27 in 35 1/3 innings since joining New York on July 16, gave up a single to Huff with one out in the sixth. Small struck out Gomes before giving up the two-run homer to Gonzalez that trimmed New York's lead to 5-4.

Hendrickson allowed five runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked three.

Leiter gave up three runs and two hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Game notes
Gomes was hit by a pitch four times in the series, including three times on Monday night. He scored Tampa Bay's second run after being plunked by Leiter in the second inning. ... Yankees DH Jason Giambi went 0-for-2 with two walks and is hitless in his last 15 at-bats.