Rays sting Sabathia, pull within half-game

Posted Sept. 23, 2010, at 11:01 p.m.

NEW YORK — B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford each drove in two runs in a seven-run sixth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays knocked around CC Sabathia in his much-anticipated rematch with David Price and beat the New York Yankees 10-3 Thursday night.

Price (18-6) labored through six innings but Sabathia (20-7) struggled even more. The Rays beat New York for the second straight day, splitting the four-game set and pulling within a half-game of the Yankees in the AL East.

The victory gave Tampa Bay a 10-8 season series edge — the first tiebreaker to decide the division 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.

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. The Dodgers’ Jeff Weaver was the last do it, nailing three Atlanta Braves on Aug. 21, 2004.

With the game well 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 ago Sabathia and Price showed why they’re leading candidates for the AL Cy Young Award, each tossing eight scintillating scoreless innings in a 1-0 game the Rays won in 11 innings.

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.

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 walking Sean Rodriguez 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 ground-rule double.

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.

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. … Donald Trump and Jay-Z were in the crowd. … The only other time the Rays have won the season series over the Yankees was in 2005. … The Rays scored seven runs in an inning five times this season, last on Sept. 14 against the Yankees.

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