Tampa Bay had Rodriguez's bat confiscated in a classic case of gamesmanship -- one inning after umpires took away Akinori Iwamura's unusual model when Yankees manager Joe Torre questioned if it was legal.
"It's just retaliation. There's nothing wrong with Alex Rodriguez. He's a great player. It was tit-for-tat entirely," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I said, 'It's an illegal bat.' I said, 'I can't see inside it, but there might be something inside that bat. I don't have X-ray vision. He's got 45 home runs, it's Sept. 1.' That was my argument."
Both confiscated bats were sent to the commissioner's office for inspection.
Kennedy (1-0) stayed calm throughout the whole ruckus and allowed only one earned run in seven innings, helping New York extend its AL wild-card lead to two games over Seattle. Pitching in place of struggling Mike Mussina, the 22-year-old right-hander gave up five hits, struck out six and walked two.
"I think that's one of my strong points is my poise. You can't let those little things affect your outing," Kennedy said. "Definitely in that first inning, I felt like it was an out-of-body experience. My adrenaline was pumping so much. I tried to control it, but I couldn't. I was just glad to get through it."
Torre said Kennedy will get another start.
Mariano Rivera got four straight outs for his 23rd save, striking out all three batters in the ninth.
Rodriguez hit his major league-leading 45th homer in the first inning, a two-run shot off Edwin Jackson (4-13). The two-time MVP added a two-run double in the fourth.
"It doesn't matter which bat he uses. It's all about his physical abilities," Maddon said. "He can use a broom handle and be successful."
After the umpires confiscated A-Rod's bat in the third, he stepped to the plate with another model and lined a sharp single to left.
"I thought it was funny," Rodriguez said. "I hope I get it back. I like that bat."
B.J. Upton hit his 22nd homer for Tampa Bay. Josh Wilson had a two-run double but committed three errors at shortstop.
The bat flap started with two outs in the second and Iwamura batting for the Devil Rays. With two runners on and the count 2-2, Torre popped out of the dugout for a discussion with plate umpire Kerwin Danley that lasted a couple of minutes.
The issue was Iwamura's odd bat, which features a flat end rather than a rounded one. Torre said a member of his staff called it to his attention in the dugout, so he asked Danley if the bat met big league specifications.
"He wanted to determine whether it was a legal bat or an illegal bat. We respected his request," crew chief Dana DeMuth said.
Iwamura, a rookie from Japan, has been using the same model all season. It was checked by umpires and deemed acceptable during a game at Arizona in June. Torre said he was unaware of that.
"Even before I left Japan, I sent my bat (to see) if it's OK with Major League Baseball," a surprised Iwamura said through a translator. "I think everything's fine."
The umps huddled and had a lively discussion with Maddon, delaying the game several more minutes. After the conversation ended, Maddon walked over and spoke to Iwamura, now waiting by the on-deck circle.
"It upset Aki at that particular moment because he didn't understand. He thought they were accusing him of doing something illegal, which he was not," Maddon said.
Iwamura's red bat was taken into the umpires' room down the hall from New York's clubhouse.
Iwamura went back up to the plate with a shiny new stick -- same model -- and struck out swinging on the next pitch. He was allowed to use that model for the rest of the game.
"The rules say it has to be a smooth surface. It looked like it was sawed off," Torre said. "I had never seen that before."
Not to be outdone, Maddon soon asked the umps to examine Rodriguez's bat.
Iwamura's bats are made by Nike Japan, an approved supplier for major league baseball, Devil Rays spokesman Chris Costello said.
"It was a very opportune time to spring it. However, we play them I don't know how many times this year and the bat's been used every at-bat," Maddon said. "I'm sure they had it planned. It was well thought-out, it was punctuated at the appropriate moment, and now we'll move on."
Kennedy, a first-round draft pick out of Southern California last year, sailed through the farm system this season. He started out at Class-A Tampa and went a combined 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA at three levels.
He was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday to take Mussina's spot in the rotation. Interestingly, Kennedy takes a low bow at the waist before coming to a set in the stretch -- just like Mussina.
"Moose was the first one to congratulate him when we got in here," Torre said.
- Tampa Bay, which had won four straight, lost for only the third time in 11 games.
- Playing with a sore shoulder, Rodriguez left in the eighth and said he just needs to be smarter about sliding headfirst.