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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Devil Rays beat up on Yankees

N.Y. sluggish in MLB season opener in Tokyo

March 31, 2004

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— 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 time.

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 New York.

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.

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