NEW YORK - Jeremy Hellickson confounded hitters with off-speed pitches for six innings, and the Tampa Bay Rays continued their surge with a 10-6 victory over the New York Yankees Friday night at Yankee Stadium that lifted them into sole possession of first-place in the American League East.
James Loney drove in four runs, getting a run-scoring single and a three-run home run after Tampa Bay scored six runs in the second inning off CC Sabathia (9-9). Those runs proved vital after Tampa Bay gave up three in the ninth, forcing them to bring in closer Fernando Rodney with two outs.
When Rodney retired Chris Stewart for his 25th save, the Rays gained sole possession of the division lead for the first time since June 10, 2012.
Evan Longoria highlighted Tampa Bay's six-run inning with a two-run double. Yunel Escobar added an RBI double while Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings and Will Myers added run-scoring singles as Tampa Bay won for the 20th time in 23 games and moved one-half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
Hellickson (10-3) continued Tampa Bay's run of strong starting pitching by holding the Yankees to one run and four hits. He walked one, struck out two and recorded 13 of his 18 outs on off-speed pitches.
Hellickson improved to 8-1 since June 1 and the Rays won their seventh straight game he has started. His outing marked the 22nd time in 27 games since June 23 that a Tampa Bay starter allowed three runs or fewer.
The Yankees officially added Alfonso Soriano in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, but the move did little to help their offense. He went 0-for-5 with an RBI as the cleanup hitter as New York lost for the 10th time in 16 games following a six-game winning streak.
The Yankees scored twice in the eighth and attempted to make things closer by loading the bases in the ninth. They got within 10-6 on RBI singles by rookies Melky Mesa and David Adams before Soriano avoided a double play and drove in the sixth.
Sabathia allowed seven runs and nine hits over five innings and dropped his third straight decision.
Tampa Bay scored six times on six hits in the second off Sabathia, capitalizing on pitches left up in the strike zone and shoddy defense.
After getting a 2-0 lead on a double by Yunel Escobar and a two-out single by Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings had a bunt single but was not credited with an RBI as New York catcher Chris Stewart overthrew first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Longoria followed with a two-run double, and Myers added an RBI single, though he was thrown out trying to extend it into a two-base hit.
Sabathia took a ball off the back of his right heel on a shot by Sean Rodriguez but stayed in after a brief visit from the trainer. He then had a wild pitch and the Yankees began getting their bullpen up but Sabathia escaped by getting two strikeouts and a flyout.
Hellickson retired the first seven Yankees before giving up a one-out single to Brent Lillibridge in the third. The Yankees scored their first run on Austin Romine's RBI single and had the bases loaded for Soriano.
Soriano got the fans to their feet by reaching a full count but ended the threat by flying out to medium range right field.
The Rays made it 7-1 with two outs in the fifth when Loney had an RBI single.
NOTES: Yankees GM Brian Cashman offered a series of no comments when asked about the latest developments in the Alex Rodriguez saga. All he said was that on Saturday, Rodriguez will do conditioning work, defensive drills and tee and toss in Tampa Bay. ... Soriano was acquired according to Cashman because he was the best available bat at the present time, though hints emerged that more bats could be obtained before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline. ... SS Derek Jeter could return Saturday but the team was waiting to see how his quadriceps responded in pregame drills. ... Myers made his third career start as a designated hitter while Longoria batted second for the second time this season. ... To make room for Soriano, the Yankees optioned OF Thomas Neal to Class AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. ... Tampa Bay officially announced that LHP David Price will start Monday's makeup game in Boston. ... The Rays employed a shift where three infielders were on the left side for Soriano's at-bats.