Rays lifted by Upton's cycle, rout Yanks
Output from feat backs up Price in his final start of 2009
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nothing can make up for the Rays' hurt from not repeating as American League champions. But a healthy 13-4 beat-down of the Yankees on Friday night sure felt good.
B.J. Upton led the way for the Rays by hitting for the cycle, while going 5-for-5 with three runs scored and six RBIs. Meanwhile, David Price outpitched a shaky Yankees ace CC Sabathia to pick up his 10th win in his final start of 2009.
"Obviously with 13 runs and 17 hits, that makes it a lot easier whenever your team has the outburst we did tonight," said Price, who allowed one run in seven innings. "Especially against a pitcher like CC -- that was big.
"I felt good. That was probably some of the best stuff I've had all year in my last start."
Sabathia entered the game hoping the chalk up his 20th win of the season, and the Yankees lefty had history on his side. Five times in the past, opposing pitchers had started against the Rays hoping to record their 20th win and the likes of Josh Beckett, David Cone, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte and Curt Schilling all came away with the coveted pitching milestone safely tucked away.
Sabathia wasn't so lucky.
The Rays scored four in the first, one in the second, and four in the third to chase Sabathia and put away the first game of the season-ending three-game series. By winning, Tampa Bay moved to 83-77 on the season. The win also gave the Rays 180 over two seasons, making them the eighth team to win 180 after losing 180 the previous two seasons.
"It's tough to go out there and pitch for individual things, you know," Sabathia said. "I just wanted to go out, have a good outing, and keep the run to the playoffs. It was just one of those tough nights, and I'm ready to bounce back."
Price seemed to arrive with a little chip on his shoulder. In the first inning, the Rays left-hander let go with a high, hard one that tracked toward Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira's head before he blocked the pitch with his left shoulder. While a Yankees trainer and manager Joe Girardi tended to Teixeira, Girardi shook his head in apparent disgust at having his slugger hit by the pitch.
Reading between the lines, the Rays lost slugger Carlos Pena when an inside pitch from Sabathia broke two of his fingers on Sept. 7 to end Pena's season. So at the very least, the suggestion of a payback had legs.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the pitch, "It's just one of those things, you have to establish an inside pitch."
Price downplayed the pitch, too.
"I was just trying to go in," Price said. "Obviously, you don't want to miss over the plate to that guy, because you won't get that ball back. And it just rode up and in. I don't even know where I hit him at, maybe the helmet. It wasn't intentionally."
When asked if he had been the recipient of a purpose pitch, Teixeira replied: "I have no idea."
After the Yankees were retired in the first, the Rays loaded the bases thanks to a Teixeira error at first before Gabe Kapler drew a bases-loaded walk and Upton followed with a triple to right-center field to put the Rays up, 4-0.
Melky Cabrera answered for the Yankees with an RBI single in the second, but the Rays continued their assault.
Ben Zobrist had an RBI single in the second to drive home the Rays' fifth run. In the third, Fernando Perez had an RBI single, Evan Longoria had a two-run single, and Zobrist added an RBI single to put Tampa Bay up, 9-1, and chase Sabathia from the game. But the Rays continued to score.
Upton hit a two-run homer off Jonathan Albaladejo in the fourth to put the Rays up, 11-1. He added an RBI single in the fifth off David Robertson to give him the first cycle in Rays history along with his sixth RBI of the night.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.