ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Sean Rodriguez turned his extra pregame work into a big offensive performance.

Rodriguez hit a go-ahead two-run homer, helping the Tampa Bay Rays continue their home dominance over the New York Yankees in a 7-4 victory over the AL East leaders on Tuesday night.

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Rodriguez, mired in a 17 for 100 slump dating back to May 21, finished with 3 for 4.

“Any night with three hits, and it’s always good,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has spent the past few days working early with Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton.

“Definitely been more focused on certain things,” Rodriguez said. “Positioning in the box. What my mindset is when I get in the box, and what I’m looking for. Having the right approach.”

After blowing a three-run lead, New York went ahead 4-3 on Eric Chavez’s RBI single during the fourth. Tampa Bay responded in the bottom half and grabbed a 5-4 lead on Rodriguez’s first homer since May 27 off Ivan Nova (9-3).

“Great at-bats,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Rodriguez. “Obviously, the home run was big. Struck the ball well. I’m sure that’s going to really bolster his confidence.”

James Shields (8-5) gave up four runs and 10 hits over seven innings for the Rays, who have won nine straight at Tropicana Field over the Yankees.

“We’ve got to find a way to win a game,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “We haven’t played well and we’ve had a lead the last couple of nights, but given it up. We’ve got to find a way to hold the lead. Tonight wasn’t a good game for us. We have to put up a good game tomorrow to win.”

Tampa Bay extended its lead to 7-4 with a two-run seventh. After Desmond Jennings stole home on a play that had catcher Russell Martin make a bad throw to second on B.J. Upton’s stolen base attempt, Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring single.

Nova, who entered 5-0 in his past seven starts, allowed six runs and seven hits in six-plus innings. The right-hander had won his previous four starts against Tampa Bay.

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Fernando Rodney, the Rays’ third reliever, pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

New York took a 2-0 lead in the first when Curtis Granderson had an RBI double and Robinson Cano hit a run-scoring single.

Cano, who has driven in at least one run in a career-high seven consecutive games, was then doubled off first on Nick Swisher’s one-out fly to center. Cano was also thrown out at the plate on a relay throw from Rodriguez and a nice tag by catcher Jose Molina on Raul Ibanez’s sixth-inning double.

“That was a very big moment in tonight’s game,” Maddon said.

Dewayne Wise made it 3-0 on a third-inning solo homer.

Wise nearly threw out Elliot Johnson out at the plate from left field on Upton’s two-out single later in the third, but a sliding Johnson was called safe when Martin juggled the ball during the tag try. Jeff Keppinger then tied it at 3 on a two-run single.

“It’s a bad one for me,” Martin said. “Offensively I’ve been pretty bad all year, but defensively, normally, is kind of a salvage, but today was just a bad one overall. I felt like this is pretty much my loss. If I make that play in the third inning, it’s a whole different ball game.”

Martin, hitting .182, went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his past 23 at-bats.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was out of the lineup on a planned day off that was set up about a week ago. The break came one day after Teixeira made his first error in 94 games, a misplayed two-out grounder in the seventh inning that allowed the eventual winning run to score in New York’s 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Chavez, who took Teixeira’s spot, was charged with an error after mishandling Zobrist’s grounder in the third.

NOTES: Rays LHP David Price (11-4), who left his previous start last Friday after seven innings because of lower back tightness, will go against Yankees RHP David Phelps (1-3) in Wednesday’s series finale. Phelps is filling for New York ace CC Sabathia, who has been out since straining his left groin on June 24. … Sabathia threw in the outfield for the second consecutive game, including at 60 feet. The left-hander expects to have a mound session this weekend. … Tampa Bay OF Matt Joyce (strained left oblique) is set to join Triple-A Durham and will have his status evaluated after playing Thursday.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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