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Yankees fall in opener
TOKYO -- 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.
"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 said.
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 3-3 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.
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.
Kevin Brown pitches for the Yankees against Jeremi Gonzalez on Wednesday. The rest of the major league teams open Sunday.