7:05 PM ET, July 26, 2013
Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
NEW YORK -- Up by nine runs in the late innings, the Tampa Bay Rays wound up needing their closer to finish off this latest victory.
"It's not always an oil painting," manager Joe Maddon observed.
Masterpiece or not, here's a portrait of a winning team: From last place a month ago to now leading the tough AL East.
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The Rays have won 20 of 23 and took sole possession of the division lead for the first time since June 10, 2012. Recently seven games behind, Tampa Bay moved a half-game ahead of Boston.
"Of course there's gratification in it, but there's no complacency," Maddon said. "It's always good to validate what you're doing."
"We were playing such a great game tonight. Not a good game, a great game," Maddon said. "Unfortunately, we let them up a little."
"You don't want an under-duress moment after you're up 10-1 and have to sweat one out," he said. "That's not cool."
Well supported all season, Hellickson (10-3) won his sixth straight decision. Fernando Rodney, the Rays' fourth pitcher in a three-run ninth, got the last out for his 25th save.
"It's not hard to win games when I'm getting eight, nine, 10 runs a game," Hellickson said.
Trying to add power, the Yankees acquired Soriano from the Chicago Cubs before the game, trading a minor league pitcher to get the seven-time All-Star and lots of cash to cover much of his contract.
Soriano got his chance to make a sudden impact, batting with the bases loaded, two outs in the third and the Yankees trailing 6-1. With Tampa Bay's infield overshifted to the left side, he ran the count full before lofting a routine fly to right that ended the inning.
The 37-year-old Soriano, who began his career with the Yankees in 1999 and drew a big ovation in his return, went 0 for 5, scored once and drove in a run. He got an RBI with a bases-loaded forceout in the ninth.
"It's a good day for me today to have a chance to put on the uniform again," he said.
"I hope we have a better chance tomorrow," he said. "It's a tough day tonight."
Soriano did more on defense, catching a fly to start the game, making a throw that helped nail a runner and running down a foul ball.
Hellickson gave up one run and four hits in six innings, retiring his last nine batters and sending the Yankees to their seventh loss in 10 games. He also flashed a fast glove, snaring Ichiro Suzuki's liner right in front of his face.
Sabathia (9-9) was booed early and was hit hard for the third straight start, allowing 22 runs over 14 innings in that span. He got a true Bronx cheer when he struck out Loney while escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third.
Sabathia joined Chien-Ming Wang as the only Yankees pitchers since 1935 to allow at least seven runs in three straight starts.
"I feel like throughout my career I've been able to kind of avoid and pitch out of the big innings. Here lately I haven't been able to make a pitch," he said.
"We're right in the middle of this thing and if I can help us out, I feel like we would be doing a lot better. But getting no help from me is making it tough," he said.
The Rays have been particularly prickly for Sabathia. He is just 4-11 in 23 starts against them, including four this season, since joining the Yankees.
A two-out walk to eighth-place hitter Jose Lobaton set up Sam Fuld's RBI single in the second and Desmond Jennings followed with a bunt single that catcher Austin Romine threw away for another run. Longoria delivered a two-run double and scored on Wil Myers' single.
Loney had an RBI single in the fifth and hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Adam Warren.
Rays LHP David Price will start Monday's makeup game at Boston. He won Wednesday night at Fenway Park, pitching a five-hitter. ... Rays rookie RHP Chris Archer (5-3, 2.76) starts Saturday vs. RHP Ivan Nova (4-3, 3.66). ... Rays RHP Alex Cobb has a bullpen session Saturday in Port Charlotte, Fla. Hit in the head by a line drive last month, he threw two pitches in his first rehab start before being pulled because of a blister. ... Myers had his seventh straight multihit game, a team rookie record.
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 26: Alfonso Soriano #22 of the New York Yankees warms up during batting practice before a...(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Regular Season Series
|Tampa Bay leads 12-7 (as of Fri 7/26)|
|Mon 4/22||@TB 5, NYY 1||Recap|
|Tue 4/23||NYY 4, @TB 3||Recap|
|Wed 4/24||@TB 3, NYY 0||Recap|
|Fri 5/24||NYY 9, @TB 4||Recap|
|Sat 5/25||NYY 4, @TB 3||Recap|
|Sun 5/26||@TB 8, NYY 3||Recap|
|Thu 6/20||TB 8, @NYY 3||Recap|
|Fri 6/21||@NYY 6, TB 2||Recap|
|Sat 6/22||@NYY 7, TB 5||Recap|
|Sun 6/23||TB 3, @NYY 1||Recap|
|» Fri 7/26||TB 10, @NYY 6||Box Score|
|Sat 7/27||TB 1, @NYY 0||Recap|
|Sun 7/28||@NYY 6, TB 5||Recap|
|Fri 8/23||@TB 7, NYY 2||Recap|
|Sat 8/24||@TB 4, NYY 2||Recap|
|Sun 8/25||NYY 3, @TB 2||Recap|
|Tue 9/24||TB 7, @NYY 0||Recap|
|Wed 9/25||TB 8, @NYY 3||Recap|
|Thu 9/26||TB 4, @NYY 0||Recap|
|Complete Schedule: Rays | Yankees|
|2nd||Y Escobar doubled to deep center, B Zobrist scored.||1||0|
|2nd||S Fuld singled to left center, Y Escobar scored, J Lobaton to second.||2||0|
|2nd||D Jennings reached on bunt single to catcher, J Lobaton to third, S Fuld to second, J Lobaton scored, S Fuld to third, D Jennings to second on throwing error by catcher A Romine.||3||0|
|2nd||E Longoria doubled to deep center, S Fuld and D Jennings scored.||5||0|
|2nd||W Myers singled to left, E Longoria scored, W Myers tagged out at second attempting to advance on throw.||6||0|
|3rd||A Romine singled to center, B Lillibridge scored.||6||1|
|5th||J Loney singled to center, S Rodriguez scored.||7||1|
|7th||J Loney homered to right (352 feet), W Myers and M Joyce scored.||10||1|
|8th||D Adams singled to center, M Mesa scored.||10||2|
|8th||C Stewart doubled to deep left, A Soriano scored.||10||3|
|9th||M Mesa singled to shallow right, B Lillibridge scored, A Romine to third, B Gardner to second.||10||4|
|9th||D Adams singled to left, A Romine scored, B Gardner to third, M Mesa to second.||10||5|
|9th||A Soriano grounded into fielder's choice to shortstop, B Gardner scored, D Adams out at second, M Mesa to third.||10||6|
|View complete Play-By-Play|
|Stadium||Yankee Stadium, New York, NY|
|Attendance||44,486 (90.4% full) - % is based on regular season capacity|
|Weather||79 degrees, partly cloudy|
|Umpires||Home Plate - Bob Davidson, First Base - Jim Reynolds, Second Base - John Hirschbeck, Third Base - James Hoye|
CC Sabathia has allowed at least seven runs in three straight games for the first time in his career.
Alfonso Soriano: will hit cleanup for Yankees tonight ... 1st time he's ever been the starting cleanup hitter for them.
Chris Archer has allowed a .136 batting average in at-bats ending in his slider, the sixth-best rate in the league among starters with at least 150 sliders thrown this season. Yankees batters are hitting .210 in at-bats ending in a slider, ranking 10th in the AL.
From Elias: Alfonso Soriano has had 5,295 AB since he left the Yankees, which will be by far the longest stretch of career AB between stints with the Yankees. Notable on this list is Chris Chambliss, who left the Yankees after the 1979 season and retired in 1986 - but had an official AB as the Yankees hitting coach during the 1988 season:[+]
CC Sabathia has given up 5+ ER for the 6th time this season in 22 starts, including all 4 starts against the Rays.
From Elias: The Rays have now moved from 7 games back in the AL East to sole possession of first in the last 23 games. They're the first AL East team in the Wild Card era (since 1995) to go from 7+ games back to sole possession of first in less than 25 games. The previous best was 31 games by the 2005 Yankees.
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