AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ David Price earned his league-leading 18th win
with another superb performance against the New York Yankees, and
the Tampa Bay Rays opened a key series against their AL East rival
Friday night by taking advantage of a fading CC Sabathia and
hanging on for a 6-4 victory.

The Rays began the day four games behind division co-leaders
Baltimore and New York.

Out of the rotation since Sept. 2 because of a sore shoulder,
Price (18-5) boosted his AL Cy Young Award credentials with seven
innings of two-run ball. Striking out six and giving up five hits,
the lanky lefty got a big lift from an inadvertent deflection off
an umpire and a fine play by second baseman Elliot Johnson.

Price improved to 7-3 against the Yankees. The Rays have won
seven of the eight games he has matched up against Sabathia.

With Price out of the game, Alex Rodriguez hit his 647th homer,
a two-run shot off Joel Peralta in the eighth that sent him past
Lou Gehrig for ninth place on the runs list with 1,889 and scored
Derek Jeter to make it 5-4.

Jeter, serving as the designated hitter for a second straight
day because of an injured ankle, singled leading off to wake up the
45,200 fans that were silenced by Tampa Bay’s rally against
Sabathia (13-6). Jeter had an infield single in the fifth to pass
Willie Mays for 10th on the hits list with 3,284.

After a walk to Robinson Cano, closer Fernando Rodney entered.
The top reliever by ERA in the majors (0.68) struck out Russell
Martin, threw a wild pitch and walked pinch hitter Raul Ibanez.
Curtis Granderson meekly grounded to end the threat and send many
to the exits.

Rodney finished with a perfect ninth for his 43rd save in 45

The Yankees lost for the fourth straight time with their burly
ace on the mound, and this one could send them out of first place
in the East for the first time since June 11. The Orioles played
later at wild-card leading Oakland.

Sabathia was sharp early, allowing only a single through four
innings. But he lost control of his breaking ball in the fifth and
was done after allowing six hits and four runs in 6 2-3 innings.

B.J. Upton homered off Cody Eppley leading off the eighth to
make it 5-2.

Coming off a frustrating three-game sweep at the hands of the
Orioles, Rays manager Joe Maddon bemoaned his ballclub’s inability
to get the clutch hits in support of a stellar staff.

The bottom of the order helped turn that around.

Sabathia cruised into the fifth, allowing only hit in the first,
but Chris Gimenez led off with a double for Tampa Bay’s second hit.
Gimenez advanced to third on a wild pitch and Carlos Pena walked.
Johnson, the No. 9 batter, had an RBI single and Desmond Jennings
followed with a run-scoring hit.

Another wild pitch put runners on second and third and the third
run scored on Evan Longoria’s double-play grounder.

Granderson immediately pulled New York to 3-2 with his 38th
homer, a drive that a just eluded the glove of a leaping Upton and
bounced off the top of the wall and into the Yankees bullpen in

With one out Eduardo Nunez hit a hard grounder down the third
base line that caught umpire Jerry Meals on the right knee as he
tried to jump out of the way _ as he came down, Meals smoothly
motioned the ball was fair. It landed near the shortstop.

Whether or not the fans knew the ball deflected off the umpire
who made an incorrect call to end a Yankees’ loss in Baltimore a
week ago, they booed heartily when Nunez ended up only on first

But then broke out into a sustained standing ovation when Jeter
hit an infield single off Johnson’s glove at second base to pass

Johnson didn’t miss next time, though.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Rodriguez hit a
sharp grounder. Johnson, shifted toward second base, made a diving
stop in the hole and threw out A-Rod to end the threat.

Steve Pearce gave the Yankees the early lead a with an RBI

The Rays added a run in the ninth against Joba Chamberlain when
Nunez, filling in at shortstop, made an error on Longoria’s routine

NOTES: Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (broken left ankle) threw off
the main mound, and worked on his pickoff moves and covering first
base. He’s set to make his first start since late June on Tuesday
against Toronto. He’ll be limited to about 70 pitches. … Rays INF
Sean Rodriguez (broken right hand) is expected to be activated from
the DL Saturday. He took infield practice Friday. Rodriguez was
hurt while punching a locker at Triple-A Durham. … Former NBA
star Shaquille O’Neal got a big cheer when he was shown on the
video board pointing to the NY on his Yankees cap.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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