ST. PETERSBURG -- The Yankees flexed their muscles and displayed their backbone on Thursday afternoon, moving closer to the all-time single-season record for home runs before Carsten Sabathia was ejected for appearing to intentionally throw at a batter in the sixth inning of a memorable 12-1 rout of the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit went deep before Giancarlo Stanton homered twice, pacing the Yanks' offensive attack and swelling the team's tally to 260 home runs with three games remaining. The 1997 Mariners hold the record with 264; the 2005 Rangers are tied for second with the Yanks at 260.
"We'd rather get home-field advantage first. That's just icing on the cake," Stanton said. "It'd definitely be cool to get, but not the main goal right now."
With the victory, the Yankees' magic number to secure home-field advantage in the Oct. 3 American League Wild Card Game was reduced to one. New York can secure those honors on Friday with either a victory over the Red Sox or an Athletics loss to the Angels.
"Obviously, a big series coming up this weekend against Boston. Get everybody locked in and ready," Brett Gardner said. "These next few days, next few weeks, next five weeks, hopefully, can be a pretty crazy ride and take a lot out of you. It's important that we're prepared. I thought today we looked pretty good."
Making his final start of the regular season, Sabathia held Tampa Bay hitless until Joey Wendle singled with two outs in the fourth inning. The fireworks started in the fifth when Sabathia hit Jake Bauers with a pitch, prompting Andrew Kittredge to buzz Austin Romine up and in with a pitch in the sixth.
"I think we all took exception to that," Sabathia said. "I think any time your player's safety is in jeopardy, I think all guys take exception to that. We all did."
Though both benches had been warned by home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza and Sabathia was just two innings shy of cashing a $500,000 contractual bonus, the veteran left-hander retaliated by plunking Jesus Sucre in the bottom half and was immediately ejected, along with manager Aaron Boone.
Sabathia left no doubt about his disgust, barking at the Tampa Bay dugout as he exited, and Boone backed his hurler in his postgame remarks.
"I think there was no question there was intent [on Kittredge's part]," Boone said. "You've had some guys hit this series, and then you throw one over the head. I think, just kick rocks. I hated it. If you're going to play that game and you start messing around with people's heads, we're going to take exception to that."
Sabathia had thrown just 55 pitches over five-plus innings of scoreless, one-hit ball, giving way to three innings of one-run ball from Luis Cessa. Rookie Jonathan Loaisiga finished up as Sabathia logged career win No. 246, breaking a tie with Dennis Martinez and moving into 50th place on the all-time list.
"I felt good," Sabathia said. "The cutter was really good today. Ro called a good game. We had a good game plan. My pitches were moving and working, so I was able to get some easy outs and some swings early in the count."
Padding his candidacy for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Andujar hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Jaime Schultz, with his 27th blast giving New York a quick 4-0 lead. Voit and Stanton slugged back-to-back solo shots in the sixth off Kittredge, swelling the advantage to 11-0 at the time. Voit has hit 12 homers since joining the Yankees.
Stanton hit his 37th homer in the ninth inning off Hoby Milner, marking the 32nd multi-homer game of his career.
"We know what's at stake," Stanton said.
Stanton has four multi-homer games since joining the Yankees -- March 29 in Toronto against the Blue Jays, May 2 in Houston against the Astros and May 8 at Yankee Stadium against Boston. His 37 homers are the seventh-most by a player in his first season with the Yankees, and the most since Mark Teixeira hit 39 in 2009.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Yankees shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria earned a place on the highlight reel by making a terrific leaping stab in the eighth inning, taking a hit away from Carlos Gomez.
HE SAID IT
"He's the best. You can probably ask guys that played with him in Cleveland 25 years ago. He was probably thought of the same way then. He has a way of just making everyone feel at home and welcome here in the clubhouse, and getting the most out of his teammates. Every time he takes the mound, we know we're getting the most out of him. It's been a lot of fun to play with him." -- Gardner, on Sabathia
J.A. Happ (16-6, 3.57 ERA) will make his final start of the regular season -- and potentially tune up for a starting assignment in the AL Wild Card Game -- on Friday as the Yankees open their series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park at 7:10 p.m. ET. Happ is coming off a no-decision in which he tossed five innings of one-run ball against the Orioles. Christopher Johnson (4-4, 4.11 ERA) will start for Boston.