Kevin Brown did not give the Yankees' revised lineup much of a chance to be evaluated, getting soaked by an early shower of base hits that set the Devil Rays up for an 11-4 win in Tropicana Field.
The Rays ended an eight-game losing streak by sending 11 men to the plate for six runs on eight hits in the first inning.
Robinson Cano at second? Hideki Matsui in center? Tony Womack in left?
"All the anticipation went out the window. Nobody looked at [the new lineup]. Nothing really mattered," said manager Joe Torre. "That's what normally happens. Unless you pitch, nothing matters."
Brown (0-4) pitched, but not until putting another staggering first inning into his puzzling 2005 dossier.
In four starts, he has allowed a total of 22 runs. Of them, 12 have come in the first innings of his starts.
"He makes you scratch your head," Torre said. "Nine guys get up, eight guys get hits. Then he goes out there the next four innings and is a different pitcher. Three starts now, it's been the same way.
"You just say, 'Why?' What makes some innings better than others? He doesn't have an answer."
Brown wound up allowing eight runs and 13 hits, tying his career high, in five innings. He had allowed 13 hits on four prior occasions, but not since April 14, 1994, to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The veteran right-hander chose not to meet the media following the game. But Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre both made a bad-luck case for him, portraying him as a victim of well-placed, if not well-struck, hits.
"I didn't think they hit him hard. They didn't really crush the ball," said Stottlemyre, who vouched for Brown's arsenel, calling it "Major League stuff, no question of that.
"But he's having a little difficulty now," Stottlemyre added. "He's had so much tremendous success, he's not used to this."
That qualified as a major understatement. Brown, winner of 207 career games, has lost seven consecutive starts for the first time in his 19-year career, including the last three of 2004.
He will get his next crack at stopping that on schedule, Sunday against Oakland.
"You know there's some quality in there somewhere. It's not like he's getting whacked one inning after another," Torre said, explaining why Brown's spot in the rotation is not in jeopardy. "But that first inning was ugly.
"He wasn't walking people -- but he wasn't getting many to swing and miss, either. Everything seemed middle-of-the-plate, with not a lot of variance speed-wise."
The hole dug by Brown was too deep for the Yankees to overcome against Doug Waechter (1-1).
Solo homers by Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada and a two-run triple by Derek Jeter accounted for New York's scoring.
Cano, playing second base and batting ninth in his Major League debut, was hitless in three at-bats. He grounded out twice, with a strikeout sandwiched in-between.
At the end of it, the Yankees (11-16) were again five games below .500, and still ensnared in this month-long maze.
"This is the toughest time we've had, no question," Torre said, reflecting on his 10 years on the job. "Nothing even comes close.
"But we aren't going to sit around and say, 'Woe is me.' Nobody is going to write us get-well cards."