ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Matt Moore isn't a slow starter anymore. And neither were the Rays on Monday. The combination made for a tidy 5-1 Tampa Bay victory over the division rival New York Yankees in the opener of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Moore, who was winless in four April starts with the Rays last season and had a 4.52 ERA over six pro seasons in the month, improved to 4-0, although his ERA actually rose to 1.04 after allowing just one run on two hits in eight innings. He struck out nine and walked three to become the first Ray to win his first four starts of a season.
"I don't think I've ever done this before," the left-hander said of his early success, "high school ... anywhere."
A first-inning outburst against Yankees starter CC Sabathia was more than enough for the 23-year-old Moore, who wriggled out of one troublesome inning against a Yankees squad that managed just two hits against him and reliever Kyle Farnsworth. The Rays have allowed three runs or fewer in three straight games.
Ryan Roberts went 3-for-4 and hit his first two home runs of the year for Tampa Bay, which pulled within one game of the .500 mark with its fourth straight win.
Sabathia (3-2, 3.34) allowed five runs on seven hits -- four of them for extra bases -- in seven innings as the Yankees fell to 10-8. Sabathia struck out eight and walked two.
Sabathia blamed his troubles on "not being aggressive from the start."
"I was trying to tell myself to just be nice and easy," he said. "I think that took some of my aggressiveness away."
Sabathia was hit hard in the first inning, allowing two home runs and a triple as the Rays gave Moore a 4-0 lead that looked bigger with each passing inning.
Roberts opened the scoring with a solo homer, and after Ben Zobrist whiffed for the second out, Evan Longoria singled and scored on a Sean Rodriguez triple. Yunel Escobar, bumped from the ninth spot to sixth because of a recent tear, homered on the first pitch he saw for the second consecutive game, upping the lead to 4-0.
"It happens," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of falling behind early. "This team's been able to come back a few times this year. You just can't expect your pitcher to be perfect every time. Sometimes you have to pick him up a little bit."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said his team was "fortunate" to tag Sabathia early.
"We had good at-bats, but you've got to give Sabathia a lot of credit," he said. "We got a couple runs early, four runs early, but he really pitched well. They can talk about his velocity being down a little bit, but he really knows how to pitch and he did a lot of good things out there."
Robinson Cano trimmed the deficit to 4-1 with a soaring home run to right on a 1-2 pitch in the fourth inning. The Yankees threatened with runners on first and third and one out in the sixth, but Moore struck out clean-up hitter Vernon Wells and retired Francisco Cervelli on a fly out to preserve the lead.
NOTES: Sabathia has allowed three homers in a game nine times in 388 big-league starts. The Rays are the only team to do it multiple times, having now accomplished the feat three times. ... Yankees first baseman and cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before the start because of what the team described as a "tight lower back." He was replaced in the field by Lyle Overbay, who hit eighth, and in the fourth spot by Wells. Youkilis (.295 batting average) left a game at Toronto on Saturday with back tightness and did not play on Sunday, although he declared himself fit. Girardi said it "might be a couple more days" before Youkilis returns. ... Rays outfielder Luke Scott will begin a rehab stint on Tuesday with Class A Charlotte (Fla.). He has not played in the regular season because of a strained calf. ... The Yankees have hit a homer in all nine road games this season. ... Roberts had his third career multi-homer game, his first since 2011 with Arizona. ... The Yankees are 2-12 at Tropicana Field since July 21, 2011.