NEW YORK -- Thursday night's rubber game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays pitted top-shelf starters CC Sabathia and David Price.
In their previous five matchups, the two had truly been each other's opposite numbers: Price was 3-0 and Sabathia 0-3, with the Rays winning all five contests.
This time, though, thanks to two big innings ignited by home runs from Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano -- as well as his own strong eight-inning performance -- Sabathia finally reversed the trend.
The left-hander improved his 2012 record to 5-0 and bested Price for the first time as New York won 5-3 before 37,720 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia yielded just two runs, both unearned, and struck out a season-high 10. He scattered seven hits and a walk.
"When you have a great lineup like we have, like I always say, if I can keep us in the game, I always think we'll have a chance to win," Sabathia said.
Of the unearned runs -- both coming after errors by third baseman Eduardo Nunez, Sabathia said, "No matter what happens, you have to pick guys up. And fortunately, I was able to do that. Just keep making pitches."
Cano had three hits and drove in two, and Alex Rodriguez and Nunez each collected two hits and scored runs in the victory.
"I thought we had really good swings on (Price) tonight, and stayed aggressive, and we were able to beat a very good pitcher." Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought this was the best game (Sabathia) pitched all year. He had everything working tonight."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "Overall, David had good stuff. I thought he got in the middle of the plate, and they hit some balls well."
With new Yankees closer David Robertson unavailable after pitching the previous two nights, Rafael Soriano finished the game for his first save of the year.
Sean Rodriguez and Chris Gimenez had two hits apiece for Tampa Bay.
Down 2-0, the Yankees evened the score in the bottom of the second, then broke through with three runs in the fifth.
Granderson slammed his 11th home run of the year leading off the second. With one out, Nunez walked and stole second. Chris Stewart singled Nunez home, and he wound up at third after Price (5-2) threw the ball into center field trying to get Stewart at second as Nunez scored.
A rattled Price then walked Derek Jeter on four pitches but escaped further damage when Nick Swisher lined into a double play.
Price ran into more trouble in the fifth, though. After a leadoff single by Swisher, Cano belted his third homer of the year, a first-pitch blast to right-center, giving Yankees their first lead of the game, 4-2.
"Price is one of the best guys in the game," Cano said. "He throws a lot of pitches for strikes, and tonight we were able to get good swings on him."
Alex Rodriguez then doubled to left-center and Mark Teixeira walked. Granderson grounded into a double play, but Andruw Jones hit an RBI double to make the score 5-2.
"I think Cano's home run was the separator, obviously" Maddon said. "Otherwise, it was pretty evenly contested."
The Rays began the scoring in the top of the first. With one out, Sabathia hit Sean Rodriguez with a pitch. After a B.J. Upton strikeout, Jeff Keppinger reached on an infield hit, and Brandon Guyer was safe on an error by third baseman Nunez, loading the bases. Carlos Pena then singled to right to drive in a run, but Swisher threw out Keppinger at the plate to end the rally.
Tampa Bay scored another unearned run off Sabathia in the second. After a leadoff single by Elliot Johnson, Nunez made his second error, this time on a throw to second trying to force Johnson. Will Rhymes popped out trying to bunt the runners over, and Ben Zobrist struck out, but Sean Rodriguez stroked a single to center to bring Johnson home.
NOTES: Before the game, the Yankees announced that left fielder Brett Gardner, on the disabled list since April 18 with a right elbow strain, had suffered a setback in his recovery while playing in the minors. Gardner was due to undergo an MRI to see what was causing swelling in the area. "We miss him, there's no doubt about it," Girardi said. "His presence in left field, the way he puts pressure on the other team's defense." There was no immediate word on when Gardner may return. ... Rays outfielder Matt Joyce, who fell down after hitting the game-winning, three-run homer off Robertson on Wednesday night, took a lot of good-natured ribbing from his teammates. "Price said I better work on my dismount," said Joyce, who turned his ankle on home plate after the swing. "They gave me a three, which wasn't all that bad. I thought I'd get a one or two."