ST. PETERSBURG -- Hiroki Kuroda turned in a disappointing debut for his new club and defensive shifting continued to frustrate the hitters behind him, as the Rays defeated the Yankees, 8-6, on Saturday at Tropicana Field.
The veteran right-hander surrendered six runs -- four earned -- and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, showing few signs of the polish that prompted the Yankees to stretch their budget to offer him a $10 million contract over the winter.
"It's really disappointing," Kuroda said through an interpreter. "No matter what kind of situation you're in, you go to the mound to get a win and I wasn't able to do that, so it was very disappointing."
Nick Swisher brought the Yankees back into the game with some ninth-inning thunder, blasting a three-run homer off Joel Peralta, and a Robinson Cano walk brought Alex Rodriguez to the plate as the tying run.
But Fernando Rodney induced Rodriguez to ground up the middle for the final out of the game. It was a fitting conclusion, as Rays manager Joe Maddon's use of the shift has taken away several Yankees hits through the first 18 innings of the regular season.
"That's the first time I've seen a shift like that before," Swisher said. "Righties, lefties, it doesn't really matter -- it feels like there's 15 guys on the right side of the infield or the left side of the infield."
Swisher said that there isn't anything the Yankees can do to alter their approach, a stance Rodriguez agreed with shortly after second baseman Sean Rodriguez took away what could have been a game-extending hit.
"It must be the computer stuff," Rodriguez said. "All you can do is get a good pitch to hit and smoke it. They'll find holes. I'm happy with the way guys swung the bats, one through nine. We could have scored 10 runs; we scored six."
Luke Scott drove in three runs to pace Tampa Bay's attack against the 37-year-old Kuroda, as scoring proved tough to come by for the Yankees against left-hander David Price, who limited New York to two runs over 6 1/3 innings.
"With a guy like [Kuroda], you sit either pitch or location," Scott said. "You can't really try to do too much. You take any aggressiveness out of your swing, because it's not going to match up too well with his kind of stuff."
Kuroda was hit for a pair of unearned runs in the first inning after shortstop Eduardo Nunez booted a routine grounder on the first batter of the game. That prolonged the inning, and Scott laced a two-run single to center field for the first runs of the game.
"I thought he was all right -- we gave them the first two runs," manager Joe Girardi said of Kuroda. "[The error] makes you throw extra pitches in the first inning as well, which takes its toll. He gave up four [earned] runs in six innings; if you get that, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of nights."
Carlos Pena, the hero of the Rays' season opener one day prior, continued to torment the Yankees with a run-scoring single in the second inning. Matt Joyce belted a long solo homer, his first, off Kuroda in the third as part of a three-RBI performance.
Tampa Bay completed the scoring against Kuroda in the sixth inning, as Ben Zobrist and Scott belted back-to-back doubles and Desmond Jennings shot a run-scoring single through the right side of a shifted infield. Kuroda walked four and struck out two, tossing 55 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
"I really wish I could have continued what I had in Spring Training, but all my pitches were a little bit off and I didn't have one pitch I could rely on today, so it was really disappointing," Kuroda said.
Price notched his fifth career victory in 13 starts against the Yankees, scattering five hits. Andruw Jones and Nunez collected RBI singles in the fourth inning off Price, who walked four and struck out five, also throwing a wild pitch in a 107-pitch effort that included 60 strikes.
"Price was really on his game," Swisher said. "We have a great team, so we have to come out here tomorrow and start proving that."
The Rays added a pair of runs in the seventh off left-hander Clay Rapada, who was making his Yankees debut. After a walk to Pena, a video review ruled fan interference on an Evan Longoria drive to right field, crediting Longoria with a double as Swisher immediately pointed to the fan.
"I was definitely sure someone reached over," Swisher said. "I just wanted them to look at it, because in a situation like that, I don't want to be the guy that doesn't say anything."
Joyce blooped a two-run single into shallow left field a batter later, opening up a six-run lead at the time for Tampa Bay. Girardi said the defeat adds some pressure to avoid a season-opening series sweep to a division rival on Sunday.
"It's an important game, but we have a long, long way to go," Girardi said. "We have 160 games left. If at any point during the course of the season you make too much out of two games, you're going to wear yourself out pretty quickly."