In dropping the opener of their four-game series with the Yankees, the Rays saw their losing streak extended to four games and fell to 7-9 on the season.
"The team is fine," manager Joe Maddon said. "You never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure. It's just one of those moments. Everybody goes through it. Ours is right now, and it's just a matter of how consistent we remain."
Thursday night was trying indeed. Even when they seemed to be mounting something offensively, the Rays were bit by a healthy dose of hard luck in the form of a 5-4-3 triple play in the bottom of the second.
The Yankees had already built a four-run lead against ace David Price when Evan Longoria doubled off Yankees starter CC Sabathia to open the second and Wil Myers followed with a walk, giving the impression that something good was about to happen. But Sean Rodriguez grounded to third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who stepped on the bag and threw to Brian Roberts, who touched second base before completing the triple play by throwing a strike to Scott Sizemore at first.
The Rays have hit into three triple plays in their history, and Rodriguez has grounded into two of them, the last coming on Aug. 16, 2011, at Boston.
Rodriguez called the experience very frustrating.
"I mean, hit it more to the left, it's foul," Rodriguez said. "Hit it to the right more, it's right at him for a double play, not so much a triple play. But I hit it hard in the perfect spot for him to step and throw. Yeah, that hurt a lot."
The Yankees' infield squashed another potential big inning for the Rays in the fourth, when Myers grounded into a double play, leaving Logan Forsythe at third with two outs. But this time the Rays were able score thanks to a passed ball by catcher Brian McCann.
The Yankees got busy against Price early, with McCann hitting a two-out single in the first to score Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Yankees added to the lead in the second, when Sizemore doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Roberts' triple to center. One out later, Ellsbury tripled home Roberts before Derek Jeter singled him home to push the Yankees' lead to four runs.
"We got off to a good start and made [Price] work really hard those first two innings," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he was over 40 pitches the first two innings, and when you're able to do that, sometimes guys will fatigue a little bit earlier. But he's been really tough on us. We just had some big hits tonight."
Alfonso Soriano and McCann hit back-to-back home runs for the second time this season, turning the trick in the fifth to build a five-run lead.
"One was a changeup, one was a slider," Price said. "Just got the barrel to the ball. That's it."
Price did not return to pitch the sixth, allowing six runs on 10 hits and a walk over five innings to take his first loss of the season.
"Everybody's going to have their bad days," he said. "I had mine. We didn't have a particularly good day as a team today. So be it."
Ellsbury added a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Roberts added an RBI single in the seventh before Rodriguez homered off Sabathia in the bottom of the seventh to make it 8-2.
Although the Rays could not mount much offense, much of the credit must go to Sabathia, who allowed one earned run on seven hits in seven innings to claim his second win of the season and 207th of his career to move into a tie for 25th on MLB's all-time win list among lefties.
Rodriguez lauded Sabathia for hitting his spots.
"[He was] throwing pitches that he wanted, where he wanted," Rodriguez said. "I mean, whether you hit him hard or not, a lot of times, if a pitcher throws the ball where he wants, you might hit it hard at somebody. You have to give him credit for doing that."
Sabathia has had a tough time at Tropicana Field; Thursday night's win moved him to 2-7 with a 4-4 ERA in 12 starts at the Rays' home since joining the Yankees.
"I've struggled here, especially against Price," Sabathia said. "I felt good working both sides of the plate. We got off to a good lead. These guys play great defense. I was just trying to get them back into the dugout."
The Rays have scored 16 runs over their past 10 games, their fewest over that span since their inaugural season in 1998.
"Everybody goes through [a stretch like the Rays are enduring]," Maddon said. "It truly is about how you handle the moment that makes you different."