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Party spoilers: Rays beat Yanks

MARC TOPKIN
Published March 30, 2004

TOKYO - The Yankees and Hideki Matsui have been the primary attractions all week in Japan. But when it came time to play a game that mattered, the Devil Rays took the headlines - and the victory.

In an unusual setting in a far away land, the Devil Rays opened their season in spectacular fashion, beating the Yankees 8-3.

"It was a heck of a win against a really good Yankees team and we're proud of it," manager Lou Piniella said.

Down 2-0 and 3-2, the Rays tied the game on Jose Cruz Jr.'s leadoff homer in the sixth, then went ahead to stay later in the inning when Julio Lugo, who won 1-million yen (about $10,000), a ceremonial samarai helmet and a color copier as the game MVP, doubled in Tino Martinez. Lugo also made a spectacular defensive play, running and diving for a pop fly at a key juncture.

Martinez had three hits in his first game for his hometown Rays, including a two-run homer in the seventh that was the 300th of his career, making him the 99th player in history to reach that mark. Toby Hall also had three hits and knocked in three runs.

After a shaky start, Victor Zambrano settled down to pitch six solid innings, and Lance Carter and new closer Danys Baez did the rest.

"I think what you saw tonight is what you'll get," Hall said. "Everyone contributing like this. It was fun."

The game was technically a Devil Rays home game, but it hardly looked or sounded that way, not with nearly the entire Tokyo Dome sellout crowd of 55,000 pulling for the Yankees, but giving the Rays some polite applause when appropriate.

Aubrey Huff thought they should have gone home happy.

"They got a good game, Matsui got his hit and we got a win," Huff said.

Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-4 in his Yankees debut and Gary Sheffield was 2-for-2.

NOTE: The Rays made a roster move just before gametime, optioning pitcher Doug Waechter to Triple-A to add outfielder/infielder Charles Gipson to the roster. The Rays wanted Gipson to add depth because Cruz has a sore right calf.

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