NEW YORK - Coming off an impressive three-day stretch in which they disposed of the mighty Red Sox trio of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling, the Yankees had no answers Friday night against Andy Sonnanstine.
The rookie right-hander mystified New York's hitters as he cruised through a game that instantly became a career pinnacle, allowing just two hits and a single unearned run in eight innings as the Rays ran away with a 9-1 win.
'Honestly, that's probably the best start of my life,' said Sonnanstine, whose parents were in town from Ohio to watch him pitch. 'It's something I'll never forget.'
Tampa Bay's seventh victory in eight games was the most striking of that stretch, coming as it did against a Yankee team that was riding high on the heels of a sweep of Boston. But it also drove home a point made by both Manager Joe Maddon and principal owner Stuart Sternberg before the game - that the Rays, despite being saddled with the worst record in baseball - are not necessarily the team a contender wants to see right now.
Friday's triumph gave the Rays a 15-14 record in August, just the eighth winning month in their history. It also secured an 8-7 road mark for August, the Rays' sixth winning month away from home in 10 seasons.
That run has been driven by significant improvement from the pitching staff and defense, with a hefty assist going to Carl Crawford as he wrapped up one of the most prolific months ever for a Ray. His two hits Friday gave him 50 for the month, extending his club record and making him just the 27th big-leaguer in the last 50 years to reach that mark.
Impressive as the Rays' offensive output was Friday, with a pair of monster Carlos Pena homers the loudest statement, the majority of postgame praise deservedly flowed Sonnanstine's way.
'When you see him go out there and do such a great job, we want to score some runs for him and get him that win, because that was an unbelievable effort by Sonny,' Pena said. 'What a great performance, and I'm just glad we got that win for him because that was amazing. That's what he's capable of doing.'
Sonnanstine had everything working, getting ahead in the count and making the Yankees put the ball in play while also keeping his pitches down and in the park.
The only run Sonnanstine allowed came on a single by Alex Rodriguez in the fourth that drove in Derek Jeter, who had reached on an error by Pena. After that, Sonnanstine retired the final 14 batters he faced in a career-long stint. He went to the showers after eight with the game well in hand.
'Sonny just pounded the strike zone with his fastball,' Maddon said. 'When he stays aggressive and primarily uses his fastball, he normally has a pretty good night, so I was really pleased with that.'
Pena's home runs - the first of which reached the upper deck in right - gave him 33 for the season, one shy of the Rays record shared by Jose Canseco (1999) and Aubrey Huff (2003). It was Pena's second multihomer game of the year, both coming this week - he also did it Sunday against Oakland.
Everything is flowing together right now for the Rays. After pounding rookie Phil Hughes on Friday, they'll get a crack at Ian Kennedy today in the 2006 draft pick's major-league debut. Whatever they do against him, starter Edwin Jackson's effort probably will have the biggest say in how it turns out. And Jackson pitched six shutout innings in his only other Yankee Stadium start.
'We've got Edwin and we feel confident about that,' Crawford said. 'We'll see how far we can take this thing.'