NEW YORK (AP) — B.J. Upton and the Tampa Bay Rays knocked around CC Sabathia, took a few lumps of their own and left the Bronx with the confidence – and schedule – that could carry them to an AL East title.
Upton and Carl Crawford each drove in two runs in a seven-run sixth inning, and David Price beat Sabathia in their much-anticipated rematch to lead Tampa Bay past the New York Yankees 10-3 Thursday night.
“I love that we were able to fight back as a group, especially after falling behind 2-0 here against that team,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We had some really good at-bats and kept grinding everything out in typical fashion. To lose the first two games here and end up with a split says a lot.”
Price (18-6) labored through six innings but Sabathia (20-7) struggled even more. Tampa Bay beat New York for the second straight day, splitting the four-game set and pulling within a half-game of the first-place Yankees in the AL East.
The victory gave Tampa Bay a 10-8 edge in the season series – the first tiebreaker to decide the division title if the teams are all square after 162 games. The Rays finish the year by playing Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City. The Yankees have six games against Boston and three at Toronto.
“I know on paper it looks good, but from my perspective I don’t take anybody for granted,” Maddon said. “We just have to keep playing the kind of game we played the last two nights. I’ve been an anti-assumptionist for the last few years – I don’t want to start right now.”
New York first baseman Mark Teixeira won’t use the schedule as an excuse.
“We have a chance to finish it off. We’ll just have to work a little harder,” he said. “We can’t complain about having a tougher schedule because if that’s the case we don’t belong in the playoffs anyway.”
Yankees reliever Javier Vazquez tied a big league record by hitting three straight batters in the seventh inning as the Rays added two runs without getting a hit. Dodgers right-hander Jeff Weaver was the last do it, nailing three Atlanta Braves on Aug. 21, 2004.
With the game out of hand – and maybe concerned about retribution – Yankees manager Joe Girardi emptied his bench for the eighth inning. He even gave up the designated hitter spot, which would have put Vazquez up eighth.
Ten days earlier, Sabathia and Price showed why they’re leading candidates for the AL Cy Young Award, each tossing eight scoreless innings in a game the Rays won 1-0 in 11.
In the sequel, neither was as sharp.
Sabathia took a 3-1 lead into the sixth, having thrown 76 pitches and given up six singles. But the Rays were relentless in their big inning.
“I’m supposed to be able to go out there and put up zeros. I wasn’t able to do that in the sixth,” Sabathia said. “It’s disappointing, especially after the guys had scratched out a lead for me.”
Crawford beat out an infield hit and Evan Longoria doubled. After a strikeout, five straight batters reached. Rocco Baldelli tapped a ball part way up the third-base line for an RBI hit and Willy Aybar had an RBI single. Kelly Shoppach walked to load the bases before Sean Rodriguez walked on a full-count pitch.
That gave the Rays a 4-3 lead and ended Sabathia’s outing – he walked off the field questioning plate umpire Andy Fletcher’s call. Upton greeted birthday boy Joba Chamberlain with a two-run double.
“He looked like CC to me,” Upton said. “That one big inning, that was the only tough inning he had.”
Crawford drove in two runs with his second single of the inning. The Rays matched their most runs in an inning this year.
Sabathia gave up a season-high seven runs in 5 1-3 innings, his shortest outing since going five innings against the Mets on May 23.
Price gave up a long two-run homer to Marcus Thames in the second to break the string of zeros between aces. Ben Zobrist had an RBI single in the third to snap Sabathia’s run.
The Yankees went up 3-1 in the fifth on Nick Swisher’s single but left the bases loaded.
Price left after six innings. He allowed three runs on eight hits and four walks. He struck out seven.
“I’ll take it,” Price said. “It’s a tough place to pitch. That’s a tough lineup.”
In Vazquez’s wild seventh, Shoppach was hit with a pitch to force in the first run and pinch-hitter Dan Johnson hit a sacrifice fly for a 10-3 lead.
Notes: Chamberlain celebrated his 25th birthday. … Derek Jeter has hit safely in a season-high 12 straight games. … The only other time the Rays won the season series over the Yankees was in 2005. … New Knicks F Amare Stoudemire threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)