CC Sabathia may be one of the reasons the New York Yankees aren't even close.
Price looks to continue his impressive stretch while Sabathia attempts to show some dramatic improvement in the middle game of this series Saturday night.
Tampa Bay (73-53) is in a virtual tie with Boston for the division lead, but the Rays have played fewer games to gain a small edge.
Price (7-5, 3.29 ERA) has compiled a 1.89 ERA over his last 10 starts, the lowest in the AL since July 1. Over that stretch, he's 6-1 while tossing three complete games and limiting opponents to 60 hits and five walks in 76 1-3 innings.
His streak of reaching at least the seventh inning ended at nine games Monday, though, when he labored through 99 pitches in five innings while allowing two runs and 10 hits in a 4-3 win at Baltimore.
"You have to give David credit," manager Joe Maddon said. "David did not have his best night, but nevertheless ... I really, really appreciated his effort."
Price, though, is 1-4 with a 3.84 ERA in nine home starts, including a 4-3 loss to the Yankees (68-60) on April 23 in which he allowed three runs in eight innings. That's been all too common for Price against them, as he's 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA over his last six home meetings, getting backed by two or fewer runs in four of those outings.
He may have found some comfort in Tampa Bay opening this three-game set by hitting four homers in a 7-2 win.
Another strong performance at the plate could be in order since Sabathia (11-10, 4.83) is 2-3 with a 7.75 ERA in seven starts.
The left-hander, though, has won his last two games partly due to getting 15 runs of support. He's surrendered nine runs with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks in 11 1-3 innings in those victories.
The offense bailed out Sabathia again Sunday, when he gave up six runs and issued five walks in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-6 win at Boston.
Sabathia, who is trying to win a third straight start for the first time since April 7-17, has an 8.31 ERA while losing three of his four starts against the Rays this year. That includes a 10-6 loss July 26, when he was battered for seven runs and nine hits in five innings.
The ace's struggles may be partly to blame for the Yankees entering play 6 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the East and 3 1/2 back of Oakland for the league's second wild-card spot.
New York became a factor in the postseason chase by winning 10 of 12 prior to Friday's loss, but manager Joe Girardi isn't worried.
"It's one game," Girardi said. "We've just come off playing extremely well. You have to turn the page and go win (Saturday)."
Production from Alex Rodriguez would surely help. The embattled third baseman is 0 for 10 over the past three games after hitting .320 in his first 13 following his return from hip surgery.
He's 6 for 28 (.214) with 12 strikeouts over the last three seasons versus Price.
The Rays' Jose Lobaton may be back behind the plate since he's 9 for 17 (.529) with a triple, two homers and seven RBIs in five games. He had two hits, including a three-run homer, and four RBIs on Friday.
|New York Yankees|
|August 22, 2013||Jayson Nix||15-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|August 21, 2013||Jayson Nix||Day-to-Day||Broken left hand|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||Day-to-Day||Calf|
|July 27, 2013||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Strained right rotator cuff|
|July 23, 2013||Luis Cruz||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|August 15, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Lower back spasms|
|August 04, 2013||Desmond Jennings||15-Day DL||Fractured left middle finger|
|August 04, 2013||Desmond Jennings||15-Day DL||Fractured left middle finger|
|August 02, 2013||Brandon Guyer||15-Day DL||Fractured right middle finger|
|July 29, 2013||Matt Moore||15-Day DL||Left elbow soreness|
|June 30, 2013||Jesse Crain||60-Day DL||Sprained right shoulder|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays found a way to beat the New York Yankees again.
Price pitched six strong innings and the surging Rays won for the eighth time in 10 games, rallying to beat CC Sabathia 4-2 and hang on to first place in the AL East on Saturday night.
"Whenever you're pitching against a guy like CC, you give up three runs and you're going to lose. That's what happened," Price said. "It was the first guy to give up that third run was going to get that loss."
Evan Longoria snapped a 2-2 tie with a sixth-inning RBI single and added a solo homer in the eighth to help reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Price (8-5) win his fifth consecutive decision and improve to 7-1 since a stint on the disabled list for a left triceps strain.
Sabathia (11-11) took a 2-0 lead into the sixth before giving up three quick runs the Rays used to remain in first place, percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
"It's frustrating," Sabathia said. "One big inning. I just feel like I can't stop the bleeding."
The fourth-place Yankees have dropped the first two games of a weekend series after winning five straight as part of a surge that carried them back into playoff contention.
"It's not what you want, but you've got to turn it around tomorrow. You can't let this carry over," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You've got to turn it around tomorrow and play well the rest of this road trip."
Price allowed two runs and five hits over six innings. Jake McGee , Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney finished up, with Rodney working a perfect ninth to earn his 30th save.
Sabathia, the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, allowed three runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven.
"You look at the (first) five innings, it's probably the best five innings, maybe, he's thrown all year in a group like that," Girardi said. "We need to win games. That's the frustrating part. He didn't pitch that poorly of a game. We didn't score runs. We only scored two runs."
This was the ninth time in their careers that Price and Sabathia have faced each other. The Rays have won eight of those games, with Price going 6-1 in the matchups.
But Tampa Bay's success against Sabathia extends beyond Price outpitching the Yankees ace.
Sabathia has won just four of his 23 starts against the Rays since signing with New York as a free agent before the 2009 season. He was 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 11 starts against Tampa Bay prior to joining the Yankees.
The 33-year-old's bid to reverse the trend went well early, with Sabathia limiting the Rays to Longoria's first-inning double on a hard grounder up the third base line until Tampa Bay broke through for three runs in the sixth.
Sam Fuld 's bloop single to left got the Rays going. Desmond Jennings drew a four-pitch walk and both runners scored when Ben Zobrist lined a double into the gap in left-center field to move into fourth place on Tampa Bay's career RBI list with 450. Longoria singled to center to give Price a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the fifth on singles by Alex Rodriguez , Vernon Wells and Mark Reynolds , then scored twice to take a 2-0 lead without getting the ball out of the infield.
Austin Romine fouled off three consecutive pitches on a full count before drawing a walk that allowed Rodriguez to score. Ichiro Suzuki grounded out to second base to drive in the other run.
The walk was only the sixth Price has allowed in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list on July 2.
"You've got to be in the dugout to understand. That game began today and our guys believed we were going to win. Not in a cocky way, just in a very confident way," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"When you get to that point in the year - almost September - and you get that vibe among your group, it's kind of a good thing. We've been there before as a playoff and it really smells that way again."
Notes: Girardi said that barring a setback, SS Derek Jeter (strained right calf) will rejoin the team Monday in Toronto. ... Rays All-Star LHP Matt Moore , on the 15-day disabled list due to left elbow soreness, pitched a simulated game and could be on track to return to the rotation soon. The 14-game winner said he felt good after the 49-pitch outing. "Today was a very positive day. I think we definitely can build off this," Moore said. ... Yankees OF Brett Gardner was out of the lineup against the left-handed throwing Price. He pinch-hit in the ninth against Rodney and flied to center to end the game. ... New York 1B Lyle Overbay (flulike symptoms) took batting practice, but didn't start for the second straight game.