- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On paper, this one had "Yankee Loss" stamped all over it. CC Sabathia versus David Price, a matchup Price had won six times out of seven decisions. Tropicana Field, where the Yankees had won just 6 of their last 22 games.
And a makeshift infield with a rookie at third, a guy with a bad back at second and a guy playing just his fifth big league game in two years, and first-ever at first base.
But like the man says, you just can't predict baseball. The makeshift infield turned a triple play. Price turned mortal. And Sabathia turned his luck in Tampa and against Price around, pitching seven strong innings to even his record at 2-2.
And with Thursday's 10-2 win, their fifth in a row, the Yankees -- for the fourth straight season -- are off to a 10-6 start.
CC good: Sabathia turned in his best outing of the young season, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits. He was helped by the triple play, of course, and a big double play in the fourth, when the game was still relatively close (4-0), and the Rays had two on and none out. But he got three looking strikeouts on two-seam fastballs that seemed to have much better command than in his previous three starts. Until he allowed a solo home run to Sean Rodriguez in the seventh, Yankees pitchers had not allowed an earned run in 27 innings.
Soli Yanks one: In his brief big league career, Yangervis Solarte had done practically everything. Everything but hit a home run, that is. Solarte sent a hanging slider from Grant Balfour into the right-field seats with a man on in the ninth to make it 10-2 Yankees.
Boom! Boom!: Just as the Rays appeared to be chipping away, the Yankees added two runs in the fifth on back-to-back home runs by Alfonso Soriano, to left, and Brian McCann, to right, to extend the Yankees' lead to 6-1. The same two had hit back-to-back HRs, only in reverse order, in the fourth inning of Saturday's 7-4 win over the Red Sox.
Price is wrong: The Yankees manhandled Price, who had come in with a 9-4 career record and 3.65 ERA against them in 20 career starts. Price was also 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA versus Sabathia in nine previous matchups. But the former AL Cy Young winner did not have it tonight as the Yankees collected 10 hits off him, including two HRs, two triples and a double, putting up six earned runs in just five innings. The Yankees banged out 16 hits overall, matching their early-season high.
Triple insanity: A triple play is an unlikely enough event, but how about a triple play started by a rookie and ended with a sweet pick off a bounced throw by a guy who had never played first base before.
Well, that's what the Yankees pulled off in the second inning when, with runners at first and second, Sean Rodriguez hit a one-hopper fielded by Yangervis Solarte right at third base. Solarte stepped on third, fired to Brian Roberts at second, and Roberts bounced his throw to Scott Sizemore, who scooped the throw to complete the triple play.
The Yankees last executed one of those a year ago almost to the day; it was April 12, 2013, against the Baltimore Orioles, and the beneficiary once again was Sabathia. And previously, they helped the big man out with a triple play in Oakland in 2010, in a game better know for Dallas Braden advising A-Rod to "get off my mound."
Interesting side note: The last time the Rays made three outs on one play was another 5-4-3 triple play -- and the batter was Sean Rodriguez.
Look out!: Carlos Beltran dodged a bullet, but not the wall in right field, chasing a foul ball off the bat of Desmond Jennings in the third inning. Running full speed, Beltran had no idea he was nearing the wall in foul territory until he hit it with his knee and vaulted over it, nearly taking out a security guard in the process. Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue raced out there, but Beltran emerged unhurt, although with a sheepish grin on his face.
Triple double: The Yankees got triples, both scorched into opposite gaps, from Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury off Price in the three-run second inning. Roberts smoked a changeup into left-center field, sending CF Desmond Jennings sprawling to the warning track, to drive in Scott Sizemore, who had doubled. Two batters later, Ellsbury did the same in the right-center gap, scoring Sizemore. Derek Jeter got into the act with an RBI single up the middle before Price got Beltran to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Bizarre fourth: The same Yankees infield that turned the triple play failed to get a single out on a tailor-made double-play ball in the fourth, when neither Roberts nor Jeter somehow was able to get to second base on Longoria's bouncer up the middle that was fielded by Roberts, allowing Logan Forsythe to get in safely. Roberts then threw wide of first, pulling Sizemore off the bag and giving the Rays runners on first and second with none out. Given a second chance, the Yankees turned two on Wil Myers' grounder to Jeter but couldn't completely escape damage when a Sabathia pitch sailed past Brian McCann for a passed ball, allowing Forsythe to score from third with the Rays' first run.
Shiftless: The Yankees scored their first run when McCann crossed up the shift by pushing a single over the left side of the infield, scoring Ellsbury, who had led off the game with an infield single on a high chopper that eluded Rays first baseman Sean Rodriguez, from second and sent Derek Jeter (walk) to third. But the rally died when Price struck out Yangervis Solarte to end the inning.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On paper, this one had "Yankee Loss" stamped all over it. CC Sabathia versus David Price, a matchup Price had won six times out of seven decisions.