Cano, Mussina help Yankees end Rays' win streak, respond to criticism

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Hank Steinbrenner vented. Joe Girardi held a pregame team meeting. The struggling New York Yankees responded with a win.

Mike Mussina has seen it all before.

"It helps being here eight years, and knowing this stuff happens a lot," he said after Wednesday night's 2-1 victory stopped Tampa Bay's six-game winning streak and lifted New York (20-21) back within one game of .500.

"There's huge expectations here, and we have our own huge expectations," Mussina added. "We haven't played anywhere close to them. Sometimes you just have to get together and talk, that's all."

Robinson Cano went 4-for-4, raising his batting average over .200 for the first time since the season opener, and Mussina (6-3) allowed one run and five hits over 6 1/3 innings to win his fifth consecutive start.

The right-hander improved to 18-7 in 31 starts against Tampa Bay, which held on to its slender lead in the AL East.

Girardi held a 35-minute team meeting before the game, however the manager said it had nothing to do with Steinbrenner's comments earlier in the day -- the co-chairman said the team needs to play harder and smarter.

"Nobody is thinking about any words the owner says while you're playing. We need to win games," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "Whether or not he said anything, or we didn't have a meeting, we need to win. Everybody realizes that."

Cano, who's batting .205, tied a career high with four hits, including a RBI single in the fourth. Bobby Abreu drove in New York's other run off James Shields (4-3) with a two-out double in the fifth.

Joba Chamberlain struck out the side in the eighth -- and didn't pump his fist. Mariano Rivera bounced back from allowing the winning run in an 11-inning loss the previous night with a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 11 opportunities.

"We have to go out there and fight. Just don't give it up," Rivera said. "If you're going to beat us, you're going to earn it."

Tampa Bay's loss snapped a franchise-best 11-game home winning streak. But the first-place Rays retained a half-game lead over Boston in the division, thanks to Baltimore beating the Red Sox 6-3.

"It's one game. Expectations are high. I like it. I like that everybody's upset tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We played well. We lost. They beat us, but we have a chance to take the series [Thursday], so we've got to be ready to go at that point."

Girardi declined to offer details about the Yankees meeting except to say it came from his "heart."

"The effort of the club has been good," he said. "When you don't score runs, you don't look good. We bring energy every day, but the bottom line is it has to translate into wins."

The Yankees entered Wednesday night losers of five of seven and had only scored two runs in dropping the first two games of the series to the surprising Rays.

Shields is one of Tampa Bay's top young pitchers and big part of the team's climb to the top of the standings. He was coming off a one-hit shutout of the Los Angeles Angels, but has struggled throughout his against the Yankees.

Cano's RBI single broke a scoreless tie, and Abreu's pop fly down the left-field line dropped for a run-scoring double that made it 2-0. That was all the support Mussina needed to get his 109th win as a Yankee.

Carlos Pena had two of Tampa Bay's five hits off the Yankees starter, who walked one and struck out four before being replaced by Ross Ohlendorf with a runner on first and one out in the seventh.

The first two batters the reliever faced, Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro, singled to break up the shutout. Ohlendorf avoided further damage when Gabe Gross' hard liner headed for left center was snagged by Jeter, and Floyd was doubled off second base to end the inning.

Shields fell to 0-6 in seven career starts against the Yankees, who also beat him 2-0 in New York on April 6.

"It doesn't frustrate me. Losses are losses, wins are wins. I'm going to beat them one day," Shields said. "I think I'll be here for a little bit, I'm sure I'll get my share of wins."

Game notes
Mussina tied Fritz Peterson and Spud Chandler for 15th on the Yankees' win list. ... Girardi tinkered with his batting order, dropping Jeter from second to third and moving Abreu up to second. ... Yankees RHP Jeff Karstens (groin strain) pitched five innings in an extended spring training game and could begin a minor league rehab assignment next week. ... Hall of Fame boxing trainer Angelo Dundee addressed the Rays in the clubhouse before the game. ... Rays RHP Al Reyes (right shoulder impingement) was activated from the 15-day DL. RHP Scott Dohmann was designated for assignment.