ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The pitcher who after his previous start said he had been "just good enough to lose" this season came up a winner Monday night.
CC Sabathia earned his first victory of 2015, pitching seven solid innings and at long last receiving some run support, the vast majority of it coming on homers from Alex Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira, in an 11-5 victory over the Rays in front of 10,619 at Tropicana Field.
"That's the story today, it was good to get CC his first win today," said A-Rod, who said his left hamstring felt a little "sore" in the ninth inning when he took second on a defensive indifference after being hit by a changeup. "The boys swung the bats really well."
Headley and Gardner hit three-run shots, with Teixeira, who had four of the Yankees' 14 hits, adding a two-run blast.
It was a positive start to a three-city, nine-game trip for the AL East-leading Yankees (21-12), winners in 18 of their last 24 games.
Sabathia, 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA coming in, allowed four runs -- three earned -- and six hits. He struck out a season-high nine and walked two.
"He's loved in here," said Headley, whose three-run homer in the fourth snapped a 1-1 tie and sent him on his way to a four-RBI night. "So it was great to finally see him get that first win."
Staked to a 9-1 lead, Sabathia allowed three runs, two coming on back-to-back homers by Logan Forsythe and Joey Butler, in the seventh.
That had him still a little angry afterward. "You always want to end on a good note, it puts a damper on it for me," Sabathia said.
But, looking bigger picture, Sabathia didn't seem especially relieved to take the goose egg away from his win-loss record.
"It was bothering me more that we hadn't won games that I had started," he said. "That's my biggest concern."
Sabathia entered the night getting 2.27 runs per start, the seventh-lowest run support average in baseball. In four of his six starts, he received only one run.
The 34-year-old didn't use that as an alibi for his 0-5 start -- hence, his "I'm just good enough to lose right now" declaration after last Wednesday's 5-1 loss in Toronto.
But, as Headley indicated, the feeling was different among Sabathia's teammates.
"That definitely was a goal of ours," said Gardner, whose three-run homer in the sixth made it 8-1. "He's pitched a lot better than the numbers show. It felt good to spot him a few runs early and give him some breathing room."
Rodriguez, who said of his hamstring "I've got to keep an eye on that," got things going in the first against Tampa rookie righthander Alex Colome (2-1, 5.63), who allowed six runs and 11 hits, including four homers, over six innings. It was A-Rod's eighth homer of the year and 662nd of his career. The blast also gave Rodriguez 1,989 RBIs, bringing him within three of Babe Ruth (1,992) for fourth on the all-time list.
As for Sabathia, catcher Brian McCann touted the lefthander's two and four-seamer allowing him to settle down after the first.
"He's pitched well enough to have three or four wins," McCann said. "Tonight it was nice for the offense to put up some runs and for him to get a win."