NEW YORK – Things unraveled right from the first batter for Jeremy Hellickson.
The Rays starter with a dog named Jeter hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to start his outing, then gave up four runs without getting through the fifth inning of Tampa Bay's 9-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday.
Jorge Posada hit a grand slam and drove in six runs in his first game since being benched six days ago, and Phil Hughes made his case to remain in the Yankees' rotation with six effective innings that helped snap the Rays' five-game winning streak.
"You know Gardner's going to be taking a pitch right there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the 1-0 count. "You know he's not even swinging, so you don't even have to be that fine to throw the ball down the middle. That's not a good sign that he's unable to throw the ball where he wants."
With his dad Steve Hellickson watching in the crowd, the 24-year-old rookie pitched at an extremely deliberate pace but it did not help. New York reached base in each of the five innings he started and only once did Hellickson retire the leadoff batter. He gave up a homer to Granderson to open the fifth, and now is 3-8 in games he yields a homer as opposed to 6-0 when he doesn't.
Hellickson (10-8) was pulled when Cano hit a one-out double in the fifth. Reliever Brandon Gomes preceded to walk his first two batters before Posada connected to right field, sending the crowd into a sustained ovation that stopped when Posada was pushed out for a curtain call.
"I'm disappointed, especially after the way we played last night," Hellickson said. "I wanted to come out do the same thing and get another game on these guys. So, I'm definitely disappointed."
Getting the start at designated hitter on the day his pal Derek Jeter was honored for reaching 3,000 hits, Posada laced a bases-loaded single off Hellickson in the second to give New York a 2-0 lead. He singled in the fourth then hit his 10th homer and 10th career slam in the fifth off Gomes.
Posada has not played since being dropped from his regular spot as the designated hitter Sunday at Boston.
"It's special," Posada said. "I got an opportunity today to play — and it's tough to sit around. It's not easy to be sitting here and look at everybody playing."
The big outing earned Posada another start. He'll be the DH Sunday in the series finale against the Rays.
Hughes (3-4) is in jeopardy of being dropped from the rotation despite two consecutive solid starts. Girardi is committed to going to a five-man rotation from the temporary six starters and the two names being mentioned most for demotion were Hughes and A.J. Burnett.
But that decision will have to wait. After days of talking about the coming change, Girardi revealed postgame that Freddy Garcia cut his finger in a kitchen accident about four or five days ago and will not start Sunday.
Instead, Burnett will face the Rays.
All the starters will move up a day and Hughes will stay on a regular schedule.
Hughes threw a rain-shortened, six-inning three-hitter in his previous start Aug. 2 and gave up four hits — one a homer to Desmond Jennings leading off the sixth — and two runs this time. Hughes walked one and struck out seven.
Jennings hit a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall to open the sixth and Johnny Damon hit a liner that went under the glove of a diving Gardner and ended up with a triple. Damon scored on Ben Zobrist's groundout.
NOTES: On Sunday the Rays will take the train to Boston and wear 50s-era hats. ... New York signed former Yankees RHP Scott Proctor to a minor league contract. ... Posada last had six RBIs in Sept. 2006. His career high is seven. ... Rays RHP James Shields starts Sunday. In his last outing, Shields pitched a six-hitter against the Royals for his sixth complete game this season. Garcia hasn't allowed a homer in 64 2-3 innings.