Yankees send Sabathia to hill in opener vs. Rays

CC Sabathia shoots for win No. 17 this evening when the New game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia's struggles continued against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, as he allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings to take the loss. The big left-hander fell to 16-6 on the year and saw his earned run average jump to 2.81.

"I made a lot of mistakes today, just early in the count, not getting ahead," Sabathia said after that one. "The fastball was all over the place. When I did get into hitters' counts, I'd try to throw fastballs and they turned them around."

In four starts against the Red Sox this season, Sabathia is 0-4, while pitching to a 7.20 ERA. Against the rest of the league, though, he is 16-2 with a 2.11 ERA.

The Rays know full well how dominant the former Cy Young Award winner has been, as Sabathia has allowed just two runs in 17 innings against them this season. For his career he is 9-6 in this series with a 3.00 ERA in 22 starts.

Tampa will send its ace to the hill as well tonight, as left-hander David Price tries for his first win in five starts.

"Me versus CC, it should be a lot of fun. This is what it's all about," Price said.

He did not get a decision on Sunday against Oakland, but was not impressive, surrendering four runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-4 loss.

Price, who is 3-2 lifetime versus the Yankees, had lost his three previous starts and is 9-10 on the year with a 3.89 ERA.

"I'm not going to let this bury me into the ground," Price said. "I still have a good time in here with all my teammates and stuff. That's what a good teammate does. I'm not going to sit here and dwell on my failure now. We're trying to get back into this race."

Tampa enters this tilt following an impressive four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals. The Rays completed the whitewash on Thursday, as Jeff Niemann was solid through 6 1/3 frames and Ben Zobrist went 2-for-3 with two RBI in a 4-1 victory.

Niemann (7-4) allowed just one run on nine hits and two walks to win his sixth straight decision. Kyle Farnsworth threw a perfect ninth to record his 21st save of the season.

"We've been trying to [play well at home] all year long and now is a great time to do it," Niemann said.

The Rays, though, remained 8 1/2 games back of the Yankees in the wild card race, as New York used a seventh inning grand slam from Robinson Cano to get past the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 6-5, Thursday afternoon.

New York held a four-run lead in the ninth, but after Cory Wade put two runners on Mariano Rivera took over and allowed a three-run pinch-hit home run to Russell Branyan. He retired the next two batters and earned his 30th save of the year, but Rivera has now allowed four runs in his last three appearances.

"I've seen Mo have three or four bad days and then run off a long streak," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after this latest problem outing. "So I don't think all of a sudden Mo has forgotten how to pitch. He���s in a little blip in the radar screen and he'll get back on track."

New York has won five of its nine meetings with the Rays this season.