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Rays outslug Yanks as Smyly picks up win

ST. PETERSBURG -- Saturday night's Rays-Yankees contest came down to a home run battle, which the Rays won for a 6-3 victory at Tropicana Field

"Good win, exciting win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Crowd was involved. Always nice to see a crowd like that. Saturday night ballgame. And they showed up."

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Saturday night's Rays-Yankees contest came down to a home run battle, which the Rays won for a 6-3 victory at Tropicana Field

"Good win, exciting win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Crowd was involved. Always nice to see a crowd like that. Saturday night ballgame. And they showed up."

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Brad Miller hit a solo home run off Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi in the first, giving him 16 on the season while putting the Rays up 1-0.

Brett Gardner reached the stands with a two-run homer off Rays starter Drew Smyly in the third, but Curt Casali answered in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run homer off Eovaldi to put the Rays back up 3-2. The Yankees have given up five home runs over the first two games of the series.

"Just mistakes, pitches in the middle of the plate," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Not hitting our spots. It's led to home runs."

Steven Souza Jr. had an RBI single in the seventh and Tim Beckham followed with a two-run homer to extend the Rays' lead to 6-2. Chase Headley led off the eighth with a home run to cap the scoring for New York, which lost its third straight game following an 8-2 stretch and is 6 1/2 games back of the first-place Blue Jays in the American League East.

Smyly picked up the win to move to 3-11 on the season while breaking a seven-game losing streak. Eovaldi took his seventh loss.

A-Rod struggles in return: Alex Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup for the first time since July 22 and didn't look sharp, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He was put in the lineup because the Yanks were facing a left-handed starter. More >

"I didn't do myself any favors, that's for sure," Rodriguez said. "... It was nice last night. You get in, get a base hit and then you hope to build on that. And then tonight you go 0-for-4."

Video: NYY@TB: Rodriguez strikes out to lead off 9th inning

Casali goes deep: Casali's playing time has been limited lately due to the Rays taking a good look at Luke Maile, who was called up after the All-Star break. Casali had not recorded a hit in a game since last Saturday against the A's, but he didn't miss a beat in the third when he homered to left off Eovaldi, giving him seven for the season.

"Good for Curt," Cash said. "He's been hitting early. He's been grinding through it trying to do everything he can to help us. And his opportunity to play, I think it's very important to him, he wants to add to what's going on and he definitely did that tonight."

Video: NYY@TB: Casali homers to left, puts Rays back on top

Keeping it rolling: Smyly wasn't about to be the guy to end the streak. He allowed two runs on four hits, walking one and striking out six to extended the Rays' string of quality starts to 10 games. Smyly finished with a flourish, striking out the side in the sixth.

"This team goes off starting pitching and we've all been pitching really well since we've come off the break," Smyly said. "I think we feed off each other. I think when we're all doing it night in and night out, or in consecutive nights, it really helps us as a team."

Video: NYY@TB: Smyly strikes out six over six innings

Please don't interfere: The Rays appeared to get out of the eighth inning on a 4-6-3 grounder to second base. Instead, the batter, Jacoby Ellsbury, was awarded first base and Gardner advanced to second after Ellsbury drew his MLB-leading 10th catcher's interference of the season. The tying run was up to bat in the form of Carlos Beltran, who promptly grounded into a double play.

"We had an opportunity," Girardi said. "We had the right guy up in that situation. We were three runs down, but we had two guys and we had the right guy up. Unfortunately he hit it hard into the ground."

Video: NYY@TB: Ellsbury reaches on catcher's interference

Another fantastic grab by Kiermaier: Following Headley's home run to lead off the eighth, Austin Romine crushed a ball out to right-center field. Kevin Kiermaier chased it down and made a leaping grab, crashing into the wall for the first out of the inning. More >

Video: NYY@TB: Kiermaier makes impressive leaping catch

"The second half it's been a struggle. It was a struggle tonight for him. I don't know if it's rust or what it is. He hasn't hit like he did last year. I've tried to get him going. I've tried to get him, and we'll just see what happens." -- Girardi, on Rodriguez's struggles

"Smyly was really good again. Gives up one home run and that's his outing. Six strong innings. Really happy tonight. I think it was the best we've seen the curveball, how he's felt with the curveball in some time." -- Cash, on Smyly

"Not really. I am just focused on winning games here and I haven't paid attention to what is going on." -- Yankees catcher Brian McCann, on rumors involving him in a possible trade to the Braves

When Smyly struck out Rodriguez for the second out in the fourth, the left-hander recorded his 500th career strikeout.

The Rays challenged a call at second base when Steve Pearce was called out trying to steal in the fourth. After review, it was ruled that the call stands.

Video: NYY@TB: Call stands as Romine cuts down Pearce

The Yankees challenged an infield hit by Beckham to lead off the fifth. He grounded a ball softly down the third-base line and was called safe as Headley tried to throw him out. The call was overturned and Beckham was out.

Video: NYY@TB: Yankees win challenge at first base in 5th

The Yankees challenged a safe call in the seventh on a double by Kiermaier. It was ruled that the call stands, and Kiermaier would later score on Souza's single.

Video: NYY@TB: Kiermaier races for double, call stands

Yankees: Michael Pineda (5-9, 5.00 ERA) has struggled to the tune of a 13.50 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season. But his last two outings overall have been much better: He's given up just one run in 13 innings and hopes to continue that successful trend when the Yankees finish a three-game series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET.

Rays: Blake Snell (2-4, 3.05 ERA) makes the ninth start of his rookie campaign in Sunday's series finale against the Yankees. The left-hander made his Major League debut against the Yanks earlier this season. This will mark the first time he's faced a team a second time. His plan is to remain aggressive and pound the strike zone.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Sam Blum is a reporter for based in St. Petersburg and covered the Yankees on Saturday.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005.