"They're playing well," the New York captain said Monday night after the Rays beat the Yankees 7-1 for their fifth consecutive victory, pulling within a half-game of first-place Boston in the AL East.
"The biggest difference with them is it looks like they've got a lot more confidence. You used to play in the past -- I'm talking about a few years ago -- and it looked like they waited for something to go wrong," Jeter added. "Now it seems like they have a lot of confidence, and it starts with their pitching."
Matt Garza pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out three while holding the Yankees in check with help from three double plays. Only one baserunner, Alberto Gonzalez in the sixth, reached as far as second base against the right-hander.
Jason Bartlett and Dioner Navarro each drove in two runs for the Rays (22-16), who climbed six games over .500 for the first time in franchise history and also extended their home winning streak to a club-record 10 games.
And they it by beating nemesis Andy Pettitte (3-4), who was 8-1 at Tropicana Field before giving up five runs and eight hits in four innings.
Although the Yankees left-hander still is an impressive 14-4 lifetime against Tampa Bay, the Rays have won two of three matchups against him this season.
"I didn't think there was a difference on his end," said Rays designated hitter Jonny Gomes, who had two hits, one RBI and a pair of stolen bases. "I think it was on our end."
Gonzalez had two of New York's hits off Garza, who has won two of three starts since returning from a two-week stay on the disabled list with radial nerve irritation in his pitching arm. Jeter, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera had the others.
"The game plan was to attack," Garza said. "We went right after them."
Tampa Bay, coming off a weekend sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, lost its bid for a third shutout in four games in the eighth inning.
"Bottom line, we didn't hit tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is a team that if you get ahead of them, they can't be as aggressive. If you get a lead on them, sometimes you can shut a little bit of that down."
On a day the Yankees learned they'll be without Alex Rodriguez for at least another week, Pettitte struggled against a division rival he has dominated for much of his career, especially at Tropicana Field.
The left-hander had won seven consecutive decisions in the domed stadium, dating to his only previous loss here on Sept. 16, 1998. The .888 career winning percentage he carried into Monday night was the second-best in the Rays' home behind Tim Wakefield's .900 (9-1).
Tampa Bay beat Pettitte 6-3 at Yankee Stadium on April 5, then 10 days later lost to him 5-3 at the Trop.
The Rays sandwiched two bloop singles to center around Jonny Gomes' first stolen base of the night to take a 1-0 lead in the second. They scored four more in the fourth on Bartlett's triple and RBI singles by Gomes and Akinori Iwamura.
"It's just pathetic on my part," said Pettitte, who has lost three consecutive decisions in a span of four starts.
"A loss bothers me. I won't sleep. It doesn't matter if I got whacked around or had a bad inning," he added. "I lost the game. I didn't do my job, and I'm not going to rest real good for the next few days."
Navarro's run-scoring single off Chris Britton made it 6-0 in the fifth and ended a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings by New York's bullpen.
Rodriguez, who hasn't played since April 28 because of a strained right quadriceps, had an MRI exam that showed he's not ready to rejoin the Yankees for this weekend's series against the crosstown Mets.
The three-time AL MVP worked out at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa before making the 30-minute trip to St. Petersburg to watch the game from the dugout.
- Iwamura extended his hitting streak to 10 games for Tampa Bay.
- Yankees C Jorge Posada, rehabbing at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, threw for the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list April 28 with right rotator cuff tendinitis.
- Rays INF Ben Zobrist had the pins removed from his broken left thumb and was activated from the DL after the game. INF Andy Cannizaro was designated for assignment.