(Reuters) - Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena savored a dream homecoming by crushing a grand slam and then driving in the winning run as the Rays rallied to beat the New York Yankees 7-6 in the American League East rivals' season opener on Friday.
Pena, back with Tampa Bay after a year in Chicago with the Cubs, kicked off the new campaign with a first-inning grand slam off Yankees All Star left-hander CC Sabathia to the delight of the opening day crowd.
The Rays' first baseman then came to the rescue in the ninth inning, hammering a single to deep center off prized New York reliever Mariano Rivera to score Ben Zobrist.
"I felt like I was going to explode, I felt like a kid out there," Pena told reporters after going 3-for-5 and driving in five runs.
"This is why I love this game, when things like this happen. You should enjoy it to the max. And I sure did, and my team mates were right there to celebrate with me. This is something I'm never going to forget."
Evan Longoria also homered for the Rays while Zobrist had the other big hit, leveling the score at 6-6 with a ninth-inning triple.
"That's bad," Rivera said of the ninth inning turn of events. "You don't want to start the season this way. But at the same time, thank God it's only one game."
The Yankees recovered from Pena's first inning slam to grab a 6-4 lead in the third on newcomer Raul Ibanez's three-run homer. But the Yankees did not score again and went hitless the final five innings.
Fernando Rodney, the seventh Rays' pitcher, collected the win after recording the final three outs.
Rivera, baseball's career saves leader, took the loss after uncharacteristically giving up three hits and two runs in a third of an inning.
Sabathia had rough start, the five-times All Star giving up five runs on eight hits while striking out seven and walking three.
Tampa Bay starter James Shields worked five innings surrendering all six Yankees runs on nine hits.
"If this is a sign of what's to come, this it's going to be an amazing year," Shields said. "Obviously, today we couldn't have asked for anything better. The ending we had, Carlos Pena coming up and coming back.
"What a homecoming he had today, so it's amazing."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Steve Keating/Peter Rutherford)