TAMPA (620 WDAE) -- Blake Snell struck out nine while pitching into the fifth inning, but it was a three-run homer by minor-league catcher David Rodriguez in the top of the ninth inning that turned a 2-0 deficit into a lead for the Tampa Bay Rays, as they ended up dispatching the New York Yankees 4-2 Monday night at Steinbrenner Field.
After getting one-hit through the first eight innings, the Rays got singles from Denard Span and Kevin Kiermaier to begin the ninth against Adam Warren, Rodriguez, who substituted for Wilson Ramos in the seventh, then took the first pitch he saw and deposited it over the left field wall for his first home run in a big league spring game.
"[It] probably made his spring," manager Kevin Cash said after the game. "I hope it did. It might have been the highlight of our spring just to see him get up there, be ready to hit and get a big three-run homer."
Carlos Gomez followed two batters later with his second home run in as many days, also off Warren.
New York initially got on the board in the bottom of the second inning, as Snell walked Didi Gregorius to begin the inning. He moved to second on a base hit by Tyler Austin, and moved to third on a fielder's choice grounder by Austin Romine, erasing Austin. Snell struck out Tyler Wade, but Ronald Torreyes lined a Snell offering into left that Denard Span could only trap, allowing Gregorius to make it 1-0.
Snell threw 30 pitches in that second inning and said that's something he continue to work on limiting.
"I definitely see that I've made strikes in that aspect," the left-hander said. "I need to have more of the twelve and seven [-pitch innings]. The thirty, with how I know my stuff plays, it's too much. It's unnecessary. It's me beating myself. I'm aware of it. I just have to do it."
The left-hander left after 4 2/3 innings, having allowed just the single run on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine while throwing 85 pitches, with 49 for strikes.
Matt Andriese got out of the fifth, but allowed a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Romine to double the deficit.
Tampa Bay's lone hit before the ninth came when Carlos Gomez doubled off Yankees starter David Hale to start the second inning. The Rays had just two other base runners in the first eight innings: Wilson Ramos in the first and Brad Miller in the fourth, both of whom reached on walks.
Cash said Monday that outfielder Mallex Smith (hamstring) practiced on the minor-league fields and is on track to play in a minor-league game on Tuesday. Smith has not played since March 8, and Cash has said that while he still believes the outfielder can be ready for Opening Day March 29, he's "cutting it close."
At Baltimore, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota. 6:05 pm first pitch with coverage on WDAE starting at 6:00.
Rays pitchers: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (start), LHP Ryan Yarbrough, RHP Daniel Hudson
Orioles pitchers: LHP Nestor Cortes Jr., RHP Miguel Castro, LHP Tanner Scott
Wednesday - vs Boston, Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, 1:05 pm.
Thursday - at Toronto, Dunedin Stadium, Dunedin,1:05 pm
Friday - split-squad, vs Toronto, Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte, 1:05 pm; at Baltimore, Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, 1:05 pm.