ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays say it's no coincidence that their recent hot streak has coincided with star third baseman Evan Longoria's resurgence at the plate.
"He's us," ace lefthander David Price said. "If he goes, we go."
Longoria, the three-time All-Star, delivered Saturday night, coming a triple away from the cycle and driving in two runs to lift Tampa Bay to a 4-2 win over the Yankees in front of 32,862 at Tropicana Field. The Rays (74-53) have won eight of their last 10 games and have matched their season-high mark of 21 games over .500, remaining percentage points of the Red Sox in the American League East.
A big reason why is Longoria, who after a rough month of July, has rebounded and is batting .317 with 14 extra base hits over his last 15 games.
"I think it's sometimes you have just have to have a couple good at-bats and feel what it's supposed to feel like before you can actually start doing it on a consistent basis," Longoria said. "After a couple of good at-bats, they've started to pile up."
Tampa Bay had rallied in the sixth from a two-run deficit against Yankees lefthander CC Sabathia, with Ben Zobrist's two-run double tying the game and Longoria's run-scoring single giving them the lead for good. Longoria, who doubled in the first, added the homer, his 27th on the season, in the eighth. The Yankees came into this series hot, winners of five straight, but have lost their last two. Sabathia said he lost his command in the sixth inning and "tried to nibble and it cost us the game."
"It's frustrating," Sabathia said. "Something that I've expressed over the past two years is not being able to hold a lead, and it happened again tonight."
Price (8-5) picked up the victory, allowing just two runs over six innings, striking out five. Price scattered five hits, with three coming in the fifth, when the Yankees scored on a bases-loaded walk and RBI fielder's choice. Price was helped by some impressive defensive plays, including a leaping catch against the wall by leftfielder Sean Rodriguez in the sixth.
"That was huge," Price said. "Anytime you throw a pitch that's going for a home run and then your outfielder is able to bring it back or make a good play at the wall, that always feels good. ... That's definitely six or seven rows deep in New York, but that's an out here."
Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays defense was "spectacular," with Longoria starting a 5-4-3 double play in the third and shortstop Yunel Escobar making a diving stop up the middle in the fourth. "I said to (bench coach) Dave Martinez about the fourth or fifth inning, we've go to win this game based on our defense, it was that good."
Maddon said Sabathia (11-11) looked as good as he had in a while, giving up just one hit through five innings against a Rays team he's now beaten just four times in 23 starts since becoming a Yankee. But the Rays rallied for three runs in the sixth to take the lead. Sam Fuld led off with a single and Desmond Jennings walked before Zobrist ripped a two-run double. Longoria followed up with an RBI single to make it 3-2. Sabathia was pulled after 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and striking out seven.
"(Tampa Bay) swings the bat and scores runs, you know it's not easy," Girardi said. "(Sabathia) was rolling along so well it looked like he was going to be able to shut them down. It started with a hit off the end of the bat and then a walk, and then it kind of snowballed after that."
It was the ninth time Price, the reigning American League Cy Young winner, and Sabathia have matched up in their careers, and first this season. The Rays have won eight of the nine games.
"That game began today and our guys believed we were going to win that game somehow," Maddon said. "Not in a cocky way, just in a very confident way. When you get to that point in the year -- almost September -- and you get that vibe among your group, it's kind of a good thing. We've been there before as a playoff team and it really smells that way right now."
NOTES: Yankees SS Derek Jeter (calf) is expected to be activated from the disabled list and back in the lineup Monday, manager Joe Girardi said. ... Rays LHP Matt Moore, on the DL with elbow soreness, threw a 49-pitch simulated game Saturday but is not expected to rejoin the rotation until after Sept. 1, manager Joe Maddon said. ... 2B Ben Zobrist set the Rays franchise record of 76 consecutive games without an error at second base, snapping the previous mark held by Akinori Iwamura ... The Rays announced RHP Roberto Hernandez will start Tuesday. ... Bucs Hall of Famer Warren Sapp threw out the ceremonial first pitch.