He's not really sure how he gave up five home runs.
Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman and Kelly Shoppach all connected in the third inning for three of Tampa Bay's five solo home runs against Sabathia, and David Price again came out on top in a matchup of these elite lefties, lifting the Rays over the New York Yankees 5-1 Friday night.
"It just happens," Sabathia said. "I just don't know what else to say."
The five homers were the most Sabathia (16-7) has allowed in his career. The Rays' previous high for home runs in a game this season was three.
"You never know what you're going to see at the ballpark," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Tonight was a strange night."
Price (10-10) improved to 3-0 in the five times he's faced Sabathia, pitching eight dominant innings of six-hit ball.
More importantly for the Rays, who began a six-game trip against the Yankees and Red Sox hoping to close a big gap in the AL East, Price snapped a six-week skid in which he went 1-4 in eight starts.
The first inning should have felt familiar to Price, though. Derek Jeter led off with a single against the lanky lefty. Hit No. 3,034 of Jeter's career came with none of the fanfare that accompanied his three knocks the last time he faced Price at the ballpark in the Bronx. Jeter's second hit on July 9 was a home run for the milestone 3,000th.
Price benefited from some fine defense, too. Shoppach made a difficult tag at home on a strong relay by second baseman Sean Rodriguez to prevent a second run in the fourth. Rodriguez made a diving stop in the eighth to start an inning-ending double play, one of two DPs that Jeter hit into.
"You talk about the homers, but the pitching and defense were spectacular," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Kotchman was the first Rays player to hit the ball out of the infield against Sabathia. His fly in the third landed in the second deck in right field. Shoppach followed with a long homer to left, the third time the Rays went back-to-back this season.
Sabathia then struck out two looking before Damon accomplished what he had done plenty of times in four seasons with the Yankees: He sent a high fly that just cleared the short porch in right field.
The only other time Sabathia gave up three homers in an inning was May 1, 2007, against Toronto when he was with Cleveland. He hadn't given up more than one home run in a game this season.
Sabathia followed his worst start of the year — seven runs in six innings against Boston — by going eight innings and yielding five runs and a season high-tying 10 hits. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
"I've had worse stretches than this," Sabathia said. I'm going to bounce back and be ready to go the next time I pitch."
The Yankees finally nicked Price in the fourth, when Robinson Cano singled for New York's first hit since Jeter led off with a single. Nick Swisher walked and Andruw Jones hit a line-drive double into the right-center gap, scoring Cano.
Swisher tried scoring from first but Rodriguez was on the money with the relay and Shoppach blocked Swisher from getting a hand in to touch the plate. Although home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was already calling Swisher out, Shoppach bounded up and tagged Swisher again, keeping the score 3-1.
"All I kind of had to do was sit on the plate and make sure he didn't touch it," Shoppach. "I knew he didn't touch it. That's why I got up, just to make sure everybody was on the same page."
Maddon put righty-swinging Johnson in the lineup as a "best guess" for beating Sabathia. Johnson, who had struck out in 12 of his previous 22 at-bats — including his first Friday — proved his skipper right. He led off the fifth with a homer to left to restore the three-run lead.
Joel Peralta struck out the side in the ninth.
NOTES: Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez homered in his first at-bat for Class-A Tampa, his first rehab game. He was the DH and also doubled and struck out. ... Yankees general manager Brian Cashman defended pitcher A.J. Burnett, whose name has been discussed as one of the candidates for being dropped from the rotation when the Yankees go to five starters, possibly after Sunday's game. "I think he's being treated differently publicly because he has money attached," Cashman said of Burnett's four-year, $82.5 million contract. "The man can still pitch. The man is a starter. He can still help us significantly." Burnett is 0-3 in seven starts since June 29. ... The Yankees will hold a ceremony before Saturday's game honoring Derek Jeter for reaching 3,000 hits. "We don't miss any ceremonies around here," Maddon said.