NEW YORK -- Carlos Pena, James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays left Yankee Stadium with more than a two-game sweep and baseball's best record. They took off supremely confident they can play well in the home of the World Series champions.
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"This ballpark didn't treat us kindly last year," manager Joe Maddon said Thursday night after an 8-6 win. "It was important to show that we can win here. It's important in regards to the mental factor."Pena homered twice and Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton also connected as Tampa Bay battered another Yankees ace and posted its sixth straight victory.A day after tagging A.J. Burnett, the Rays came out swinging against Andy Pettitte (5-1). Jason Bartlett led off with a double, Carl Crawford followed with an RBI single and then Zobrist homered.Just like that, it was 3-0, the crowd quieted and pitching coach Dave Eiland headed to the mound."So far on this road trip, our hitting has been bangin'," Shields said.Shields (5-1) overcome some early mishaps and got sharper while pitching into the eighth inning. Tampa Bay improved to a remarkable 17-4 on the road and 30-11 overall.The Rays became the first team to sweep the Yankees this season, doing it at a park where Tampa Bay had lost six in a row until this week."At the end of the day, it's a win for us," Pena said. "However, it does feel good to do it here."The Yankees began this series with the second-best record in the majors, but have lost three in a row and eight of 12."These guys are hot as a pistol right now. Anytime we make a mistake, they are on it," Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said.Derek Jeter's two-out, two-run double in the ninth drew the Yankees close before Rafael Soriano retired Brett Gardner on a grounder for his 11th save in 11 chances. On Wednesday night, New York scored four times in the ninth in a 10-6 loss.Juan Miranda homered and tripled for the Yankees.Down right away, Jeter sent Shields' first pitch whizzing past his head for a single. The Yankees took advantage of a bunt that Shields threw away and a fly ball lost in the lights to eventually make it 4-all.New York nearly took the lead, but Crawford's sensational catch in left field limited Randy Winn to a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Crawford singled home the go-ahead run the next inning.Shields retired a dozen batters in a row until Mark Teixeira's single finished him, and moved to 2-7 lifetime against the Yankees."Their starting pitching has been outstanding. They have power. They have speed, they are an outstanding team," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.Pettitte had won nine straight decisions -- including four in last year's postseason -- since losing at Tampa Bay on Oct. 3. Yet he looked nothing like the pitcher who started with a 16-5 career mark vs. the Rays."For me personally, I felt we haven't thrown the ball well the last couple of games, so that's frustrating," Pettitte said. "We're scoring runs. If we lose, it's because our pitchers are not doing the job."Pena was in a 6-for-64 slump before chasing Pettitte with a leadoff home run in the sixth for a 7-4 lead. Pena's solo drive in the eighth off Chan Ho Park marked his 18th career multihomer game.Zobrist drove in three runs and ended his drought of 159 at-bats without a home run, and Upton added a solo shot. Pettitte had allowed only one homer in his first nine starts this season.
Pena has five homers in 38 career at-bats against Pettitte. ... Pettitte recorded his 98th career pickoff, trapping Zobrist off first. ... Yankees RF Nick Swisher (sore left biceps) returned to the lineup and felt fine. ... Javier Vazquez is eager to start for the Yankees against the Mets at Citi Field on Friday night. "I grew up in the National League, I've always liked that style of game," he said.