NEW YORK -- Forget about the Boston Red Sox coming to town. The New York Yankees must be thrilled just to see Tampa Bay leaving.
Carl Crawford hit a two-run double and scored three times, Mark Hendrickson won his fifth straight decision and the Devil Rays held off New York 7-4 Thursday night for yet another victory over the Yankees.
"We have to be better. We expect more of ourselves. Tonight is just not acceptable," Alex Rodriguez said.
The Yankees dropped two of three in this series -- not the way they wanted to head into three big games in the Bronx against AL East-leading Boston this weekend. New York remained four games behind the Red Sox but fell a half-game behind Cleveland in the wild-card race.
"This team tomorrow, they start scoring runs, they don't stop," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We need to do a better job of controlling the game than we did tonight."
New York has lost four consecutive series against the Devil Rays after dropping only four of the previous 38.
"You can't say we're embarrassed because they're major league players, too," Derek Jeter said. "They played better than us. I don't know how many times they beat us, but they deserved to win all of 'em."
Rookie right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (6-4) returned from a two-month stint on the disabled list and lasted five innings. After recovering from inflammation in his right shoulder, he gave up three runs and eight hits, dropping to 0-3 against Hendrickson this year.
Wang said his shoulder felt fine, but he thought it was a mediocre performance.
"It looked like he was just trying to get his rhythm in the first inning," Crawford said.
Danys Baez retired Rodriguez with a runner on to end the eighth, then finished for his 35th save in 42 tries. He has seven saves against New York this year, tying Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990 for the most against the Yankees in one season.
"Fastball right down the middle," Rodriguez said. "I had a great pitch to hit. I didn't come through, and that's not acceptable. I need to do more."
Hendrickson (9-7) retired 13 straight after Jeter's leadoff single in the first, then ran into trouble in the seventh. But he hung on to improve to 3-0 in four starts against New York this year.
The former NBA forward allowed four runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. Chad Orvella followed with a scoreless inning.
"Knowing what they can do, I was just trying to stay focused and make good pitches," Hendrickson said.
For the second consecutive night, the Devil Rays jumped ahead in the first inning. Crawford doubled with one out and Cantu followed with a double, becoming the third Devil Rays player to reach 100 RBI. Gomes added a two-out RBI single.
Crawford singled in the fifth, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on another two-out single by Gomes.
Crawford hit a two-run double off Scott Proctor with two outs in the sixth, and Cantu followed with an RBI double to extend the lead to 6-0.
"We added the tack-on runs, which were big," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said.
Playing without ailing No. 3 hitter Gary Sheffield, the Yankees managed only one hit through the first six innings against a pitcher who entered with a 6.09 ERA.
"It has no bearing," Rodriguez said. "We're good enough. We're deep enough. We should be able to score six runs on a night like tonight."
Hideki Matsui doubled to start the seventh, Rodriguez reached on an infield single and Jason Giambi looped an RBI double the other way. Jorge Posada knocked in a run with a groundout, and Ruben Sierra's two-run homer cut it to 6-4 -- but that was as close as the Yankees got.
- The other Devil Rays to reach 100 RBI were Aubrey Huff in 2003 and last season, and Fred McGriff in 1999 and 2000. Huff holds the club record with 107 in '03.
- Sheffield sat out with a strained left thigh muscle. He got hurt chasing Gomes' triple Wednesday night, and desperately doesn't want to miss the Boston series this weekend. "That would be devastating to me," Sheffield said. "I should be able to come back quicker than if it was a hamstring. I'm going to get the anti-inflammatories and see how I feel tomorrow."
- The Devil Rays (59-82) are 31-21 since the All-Star break.
- Baez has converted 28 of 29 save chances.
- Tampa Bay is 6-3 at Yankee Stadium this year.
- The Devil Rays went 4-6 on their road trip to Boston, Toronto and New York. "It's been a real good experience for a lot of the young players. You can't teach them this, they have to experience it. We started off 0-5 and ended up 4-6 -- you've got to be pleased," Piniella said.