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(Sunday, April 8th)
Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, New York 0
St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - Reigning American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson began his sophomore campaign on the right foot, coming within an out of his second-career shutout as the Rays blanked the Yankees, 3-0, at Tropicana Field.
The 25-year-old right-hander led all rookie pitchers in earned run average (2.95), quality starts (20) and opponents' batting average (.210) to earn the honor last season, and celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday by tossing 8 2/3 scoreless innings of three-hit ball before being pulled with two outs in the ninth after walking Nick Swisher.
"It's a good birthday present," joked Hellickson after the victory. "I just felt really good out there. I commanded the strike zone and made good pitches when I needed to."
Fernando Rodney came on in relief, and induced a groundout from Raul Ibanez to earn his second save of the season.
Carlos Pena continued his hot homecoming to Tampa Bay, finishing 2-for-4 with a solo home run, while Jeff Keppinger also had two hits and a solo blast. Hellickson (1-0) finished with four strikeouts and four walks.
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Swisher all hit doubles for the Yankees, who saw starter Phil Hughes (0-1) yield two runs on five hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. The last time New York started a season with three straight losses was back in 1998 when they ended the year with 114 regular season wins and a World Series title.
"I felt like I had good stuff," remarked Hughes. "It was just a lot of long, drawn out at-bats that kind of killed my pitch count today. They threw really well on the other side of the ball too so it was a tough game for everybody."
The Rays got on the board in the first inning when Evan Longoria scorched a two-out double past Rodriguez at third and came around to score on Matt Joyce's triple to right field. Joyce broke his bat on the blooper which bounced over Ibanez in right field after he came up just short on a diving attempt to end the inning.
Pena blasted his home run into the bleachers in right in the bottom of the third inning to give the Rays a 2-0 advantage and, with two outs in the sixth inning, Keppinger lifted a fastball into the seats in left-center field, pressing the lead to 3-0 in favor of the home team.
The Yankees went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base.
The teams split 18 games last season...Tampa Bay's 3-0 start is the second in franchise history after winning three straight to start the 2002 season...The Rays have won seven straight dating back to last season and six straight at home against the Yankees...Tampa Bay stranded seven runners and went 1-for-5 with RISP.
04/08 18:48:44 ET