ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- With little else to play for on the final weekend of the regular season, the New York Yankees were hoping to make CC Sabathia a 20-game winner and build momentum toward the playoffs.
The AL East champions didn't do either Friday night, losing 13-4 to Tampa Bay, with B.J. Upton going 5 for 5 while hitting for the cycle and driving in a career-high six runs for the Rays to ruin Sabathia's quest for a personal milestone.
Hunt For October
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"It's tough to go out there and pitch for individual things," Sabathia said. "I just wanted to go out, have a good outing, and keep the run going to the playoffs. It was just one of those tough nights."Sabathia (19-8) failed to get through the third inning, matching a personal worst by allowing nine runs -- five earned -- in 2 2/3 innings and losing for the first time in more than two months.Upton hit a three-run triple in the first inning, then doubled off the Yankees ace in the third. After hitting a two-run homer off Jonathan Albaladejo in the fourth, he completed the cycle with a run-scoring single off David Robertson in the fifth."It's disappointing because we really wanted to get him 20," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said."It didn't happen. But his next start obviously is a big start, and we look forward to it," Girardi added, eyeing Game 1 of the playoffs. "CC has talked about the real prize, and that starts next week."Upton, who's hitting .243, became the first player in Tampa Bay's 12-season history to hit for the cycle. He became the fourth to have five hits in a game when he singled off Phil Hughes in the eighth."It was an incredible night for him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.The speedy center fielder's six RBIs helped the Rays to a 12-1 lead and overshadowed an impressive pitching performance by rookie David Price (10-7), who allowed one run and two hits in seven innings.The 24-year-old left-hander retired the last 12 batters he faced and limited the Yankees to one base runner after the second inning, when he gave up a leadoff walk and singles to Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera, the later driving in New York's first run.Juan Miranda's first career homer, a two-run, eighth-inning shot off Dale Thayer, enabled the Yankees to tie a franchise record for homers in a season. The AL East champions also hit 242 in 2004.Sabathia, who's tied with St. Louis' Adam Wainwright for the most wins in the majors, was trying to win 20 for the first time in his career. He also won 19 with Cleveland on the way to earning the 2007 AL Cy Young Award.The left-hander lost for only the second time in 13 decisions since the All-Star break. Both defeats came at Tropicana Field, where the Rays also beat Sabathia 6-2 on July 28.The three-time All-Star allowed nine runs in a game for the fifth time in his career. He finished 0-2 in four starts against Tampa Bay this season, allowing 21 runs in 23 1/3 innings and failing to get beyond the sixth inning in either of his two outings in St. Petersburg."I think part of the dynamic tonight was the fact that they're in [the playoffs] and they're not really playing for anything right now. They're just trying to get ready," Maddon said."I don't know exactly what that meant for him, although I know he probably wanted to win that 20th game. ... We just came out and ambushed him a little bit early on, and that's pretty much what caused the game to go the other way."During a stretch of 11 starts without a loss from Aug. 2 until Friday night, the left-hander went 9-0 with a 2.04 ERA.A lack of timely hitting has cost Tampa Bay all season, however the Rays took advantage of virtually every opportunity to put this one out of reach early.Sabathia walked Gabe Kapler to force in a run after Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the first inning on a single, first baseman Mark Teixeira's fielding error and a walk. Upton followed with his triple to right field that made it 4-0.Ben Zobrist had an RBI single in the second, then added another in the third, when the Rays scored four times to finish Sabathia, who allowed eight hits and matched a season high with five walks."These games are going to happen," New York's Nick Swisher said. "But it's nice to get them out of the way when they really don't mean anything."
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner spent three hours on Thursday in his office at the team's spring training complex, spending time with his sons, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner. The 79-year old Steinbrenner, who has kept a low profile the past few years, may make the trip from his Tampa home to see the team play this weekend. ... Upton has struggled at the plate this season, but he's always been tough on Sabathia, going 6 for 14 lifetime with two homers. ... Teixeira's first-inning error was only his fourth of the season in 1,263 chances.