A-Rod's bomb hits catwalk, draws first official replay as Yanks cruise

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez made major league history by agreeing with an umpire.

The New York Yankees third baseman, a lightning rod for headlines on and off the field throughout his career, saw his ninth-inning home run Wednesday night the same way as third base umpire Brian Runge. So did baseball's instant replay system.

Rodriguez's long blast down the left field line was upheld in baseball's first use of video to review boundary calls, and the Yankees beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 8-4.

"I'm the first player. Next time I'm going stealth and go under the radar screen," Rodriguez said. "It's very fitting I'm involved. I was just glad we got the right call."

Rodriguez, who went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs, hit a towering two-run shot off Troy Percival that Runge immediately ruled a homer when it bounced off the catwalk behind the foul pole in left field.

Rays catcher Dioner Navarro protested, bringing manager Joe Maddon out of the dugout. After convening, the umpires left the field to review the video, a process that took 2 minutes, 15 seconds to back the onfield call.

Rodriguez was denied a homer May 21 against Baltimore when a ball he hit over the fence at Yankee Stadium was incorrectly called an RBI double.

It was one of a string of home run calls blown by umpires, leaving some calling for instant replay.

"I had the best view because I was at home plate. I saw what Brian saw, and for sure I knew this was going to get replayed," Rodriguez said of his 549th career homer that moved him ahead of Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time list. "I saw the way Navarro jumped and then Maddon jumped out of the dugout and I said, 'Here we go.'"

Umpire crew chief Charlie Reliford said Maddon asked plate umpire Greg Gibson to discuss the call with Runge.

"We all believed it was a home run, but since the technology is in place we made the decision to use the technology and go look at the replays," Reliford told a pool reporter, adding that the umpires watched the video several times.

"If there had been no argument, obviously we wouldn't have because all four of us believed the call was correct on the field," Reliford said. "Because he disputed it, and it was very close, and now the technology is in place, we used it."

Percival had no beef with Runge's call.

"I thought it was clearly fair, but after looking at the replay, I wouldn't have known what to call, to be honest with you," Percival said. "The replay made it more cloudy for me."

But Reliford said the process, which was put in place last Thursday, worked "exactly like they trained us it would go," adding it was a group decision.

"Technically, it's up to the crew chief. But when the ship sinks, everyone drowns. We operate as a crew, we do everything as a crew, and we make decisions as a crew," Reliford said. "If it comes down to a split decision, then the crew chief is going to have to decide which decision is most likely correct."

Boston, which beat Baltimore 5-4 on Wednesday, moved within three games of Tampa Bay in the division.

Edwar Ramirez (5-1) worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam after Carl Pavano ran into trouble in the fifth. He was the winner despite facing only three batters as the Yankees won a series against a team .500 or better for the first time since winning two of three against Boston July 25-27.

Rodriguez, who has two homers and nine RBIs in the first three games of 10-game, four-city road trip, had a run-scoring double in the third off Edwin Jackson (11-9) and a RBI single in the fourth against Chad Bradford.

Robinson Cano, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Giambi had RBI doubles off Jackson, who lasted 3 1/3 innings.

The Rays, who had one hit after the fifth inning, lost a series for the first time since the All-Star break.

It was only the third time since the break that Tampa Bay lost consecutive games. The Rays had been 12-0-1 in series since losing a season-high seven straight games from July 7-13 to turn a five-game lead over the Red Sox into a half-game deficit.

While the Rays weren't charged with any errors Wednesday night, sloppy defense contributed to four infield singles and helped the Yankees advance baserunners at will on hits to the outfield.

In losing the series opener 7-2 on Tuesday night, the Rays ran themselves out of a potential big inning and committed a throwing error that helped New York break the game open after Xavier Nady hit a two-run homer.

The Yankees built a 6-1 lead for Pavano. The right-hander, making his third start since returning from elbow surgery that sidelined him for more than a year, couldn't get through the five innings required to get the win.

B.J. Upton singled and Carlos Pena walked to begin the fifth against Pavano, who was replaced by Ramirez with New York leading 6-3. Cliff Floyd lined a single off second baseman Cano's glove to load the bases with no outs.

The Yankees escaped unscathed when Willy Aybar lined into a double play to Cano, who stepped on second before Pena could get back to the bag. Eric Hinske popped to Derek Jeter, ending the threat.

The Rays scored on Floyd's first-inning RBI double and Gabe Gross' two-run homer in the fourth as Pavano allowed six hits, walked two and struck out one in four-plus innings -- his shortest outing since coming off the DL. Akinori Iwamura added an RBI double off Jose Veras in the ninth.

Jackson, who had won six of his previous seven decisions, allowed six runs and 10 hits in his shortest start of the season. Four of the hits were infield singles, and two of the five doubles he yielded would have been singles if Bobby Abreu and Ivan Rodriguez hadn't been aggressive in taking an extra base.

Game notes
Jeter went 1-for-5 and needs five hits to tie Babe Ruth (2,518) for second place on the Yankees career list. ... Abreu was 1-for-18 lifetime against Jackson before getting hits in his first two at-bats. ... Navarro returned to the lineup after missing five of the previous six games because of sore hamstrings in both legs. ... Rays All-Star rookie 3B Evan Longoria, sidelined since Aug. 8 with a fractured right wrist, ran the bases during pregame, but still is not ready to take batting practice. "We're in a holding pattern there," Maddon said.