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Yankees-Rays Score: Rays 5, Yankees 1 -- Derek Jeter, 2,998

Bronx, NY (Sports Network) - Derek Jeter moved closer in his chase for 3,000 career hits, but Jeff Niemann and the Rays stole the show Thursday in a 5-1 victory over the Yankees in the opener of a four-game series.

Jeter doubled in his first at-bat for hit No. 2,998, but came up empty in his next four plate appearances.

"After the first one, I'd be lying to you if I didn't think it was attainable today," admitted Jeter. "Niemann did a great job ... He settled down."

Sean Rodriguez robbed Jeter of a hit with a diving backhanded stab down the third-base line in the fifth, then nabbed him on a bang-bang play at first to end the game with two runners on base.

Other than Jeter's two-bagger, the only time the crowd of 47,787 at Yankee Stadium had a chance to cheer for the home team came on Robinson Cano's home run in the sixth. It was the only mistake made by Niemann (4-4) in his 7 1/3 innings on the hill, as he gave up just six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

"That was like Jeff Niemann prior to the injury last year, that's what I saw. He was pitch efficient," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Ben Zobrist went 3-for-3 with two walks and finished a double short of the cycle, while B.J. Upton also homered and drove in three runs for the Rays, winners of two straight and four of six overall.

Bartolo Colon (6-4) yielded five runs on 10 hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames to absorb his first loss since May 23.

Tampa Bay, making its first visit to New York this season, began a string of 11 straight games against the American League's top two teams -- the Yankees and Red Sox.

Zobrist got the pivotal stretch started on a positive note, leading off the game with a triple before scoring on an Evan Longoria base hit.

The Yankees stranded four runners over the first two frames, and Zobrist doubled the Rays' lead with a leadoff homer in the third. Later in the inning, Upton's two-out single plated Casey Kotchman for a 3-0 cushion.

Upton, still the only Rays player to complete a cycle, again came up with Kotchman on base in the fifth and launched his 14th home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.

Niemann was pulled after walking Mark Teixeira with one out in the eighth, and Juan Cruz came in and retired Alex Rodriguez and Cano to keep it a 5-1 game.

Zobrist, who entered play tied for the MLB lead in doubles with 28, had a chance for the cycle in the ninth but worked his second free pass of the night, taking a payoff pitch inside to fall short of the feat.

Kyle Farnsworth put two runners on in the ninth to bring Jeter to the plate. The Yankees' all-time hits leader nearly beat out a slow roller to third, but Rodriguez's throw got him by a step to send New York to its fourth loss in five games.

Jeter is trying to become the first Yankee to reach the 3,000-hit milestone with the club. With two more hits, he will become the 28th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat...Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will not play in this year's All-Star Game because of a sore triceps.

Final - 7.7.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tampa Bay Rays 1 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 5 12 0
New York Yankees 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6 0
WP: Jeff Niemann (4 - 4)
LP: Bartolo Colon (6 - 4)

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