09/22/10 5:36 PM ET
Epic matchup resurfaces for Rays-Yanks finale
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Both pitched shutout ball for eight innings and took no-decisions when the game remained scoreless until the 11th inning, when Reid Brignac's dramatic solo home run gave the Rays a 1-0 victory and the momentum moving forward in the battle between the two clubs for AL East supremacy and possible home-field advantage.
The events of the last week and a half have tilted that momentum slightly back in favor of the Yankees, who have won two of three in the current series at Yankee Stadium, despite the Rays winning, 7-2, on Wednesday. The Bronx Bombers have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division, but the super southpaws are set to go at it again Thursday to determine whether the four-game set will be a rousing success for New York or an even split.
And let's not forget the possible AL Cy Young Award implications.
Price trails Sabathia in victories, 17 to 20, but he has the lower ERA of the two, with a 2.79 to Sabathia's 3.05. As far as strikeouts go, the two are very close, with Price at 179 and Sabathia at 183. Price can boast of the fact that he's the only pitcher in the AL to rank in the league's top three in wins and ERA, and he's 2-0 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts this month, allowing only 13 hits with a .133 opposing batting average.
He also said his effort the last time he faced the Yankees in that epic head-to-head with Sabathia is exactly what he's capable of.
"That's how I expect to throw every time out," Price said. "That's the stuff I expect to have. That's the command I expect to have. That's the fastball velocity I expect to have. That's the breaking stuff I expect to have -- me going out there and executing my pitches night in and night out."
Then again, it's never easy against a lineup as stacked as the Yankees', and Price knows it.
"What do they have, seven Hall of Famers in there? That says enough," Price said. "That says all you need to say right there. Seven Hall of Famers in the lineup at one time."
As for Sabathia, he can become the first Yankees pitcher to win 21 games in a season since Andy Pettitte did it in 1996. He also has gone 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA in six starts in 2010 against teams poised to make the playoffs (Tampa Bay, Texas and Philadelphia), and he has compiled 21 starts this season in which he has held the opponent to three earned runs or less and thrown at least seven innings, third most in the Majors behind Roy Halladay (22) and Felix Hernandez (23).
But he said he's not looking at the rematch with Price as anything other than a very important late-September game against a team fighting for a division title.
"I'm not facing him, I'm facing their lineup," Sabathia said of Price. "I look to go out and put up zeros and try to get us a win. Every game is important right now, especially against these guys. Hopefully I can pitch well and try to do what I did last time out.
"Normally this time of year, I start feeling a lot better, towards the end of the year. I just really can't explain it. It's one of those things with me. I feel the same like I did last year and in '08, no problems with my arm or anything. Everything's good."
No matter what happens Thursday in New York or in the postseason or in the Cy Young Award voting, Sabathia said he has become friendly with Price and has great respect for the young lefty seemingly cut in Sabathia's big-game mold.
"He doesn't let anything get to him," Sabathia said. "You saw what he did when he came up as a rookie and in those late-inning games coming out of the bullpen. It's just how under control he is when he comes out there."
Rays: Longoria making more history
Third baseman Evan Longoria is the fourth player in Rays history to reach 100 RBIs in consecutive seasons, joining Fred McGriff (1999-00), Carlos Pena (2007-08-09) and Aubrey Huff (2003-04). ... Since June 22, the Rays have made only 28 errors in 82 games, seven fewer than any other club and nine fewer than any other AL team, with the Yankees next at 37. The Rays have gone from 21st in the Majors in fielding percentage to their current spot of sixth. ... With closer Rafael Soriano's next save, he will pass Roberto Hernandez (43 in 1999) for the most saves in a single season in club history.
Yankees: Jeter a run machine
Shortstop Derek Jeter has 104 runs this year, marking the 13th time in his career he's scored 100 or more times in a season. He tied Lou Gehrig for the most such seasons in franchise history, and among active players, only teammate Alex Rodriguez (also 13) has as many 100-run seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Robinson Cano became the fourth Yankees second baseman to record at least 100 RBIs in a season, joining Alfonso Soriano, Joe Gordon and Tony Lazzeri. His 104 RBIs are the most by a Yankees second baseman since Gordon drove in 111 in 1939. The Yankees are 24-2 in games in which Cano homers. ... Reliever Joba Chamberlain will celebrate his 25th birthday Thursday.
The Rays have an AL-best 38 RBIs by pinch-hitters this season, the most by an AL club since the 1990 Rangers had 43. The Rays' 35 successful pinch-hits are also eight more than the next-closest AL team (Boston with 27). ... The Yankees lead the Majors with 46 come-from-behind wins this season. Seven of their comeback wins in 2010 have been by at least three runs. The club also led the Majors in comeback wins last year, rallying for victory 51 times.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.