NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia twirled on the mound, gave a shout and violently punched the air.
Far from a must-win, it certainly was a welcomed one for the New York Yankees and their ace.
Sabathia outpitched David Price for the first time in six career matchups between the All-Star lefties, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson homered and the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-3, Thursday night.
"CC seems to be the big guy right now," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia (5-0) struck out 10 as New York overcame a pair of early errors by third baseman Eduardo Nunez and sent Tampa Bay to its fourth loss in five games.
Sabathia punctuated his outing by fanning B.J. Upton with two runners on base to end the seventh inning with the Yankees leading, 5-2. The burly pitcher let loose, catcher Chris Stewart pumped his fist and Upton pounded his bat in the ground after swinging over a slider.
"I was fired up I was going to make pitches to B.J. Upton," Sabathia said.
Sabathia allowed two unearned runs in eight innings -- the fourth straight start he's gone exactly that long. He finished up by striking out Carlos Pena, who slung his bat all the way to the Tampa Bay dugout in disgust.
Rafael Soriano gave up a run in the ninth for a save in his first try of the season. In 2010, he led the AL in saves with Tampa Bay.
Soriano yielded a single and an RBI grounder, a night after the Rays scored four runs in the ninth off fill-in closer David Robertson. Girardi said he wasn't going to use Robertson for a third straight day, but was OK to do it with Soriano.
Sabathia appreciated the support from his hitters and relief. The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner had won just twice in 14 starts against the Rays since putting on the pinstripes. Price had been a particular nemesis, too, with Tampa Bay winning all five previous times he faced Sabathia.
"I didn't know that stat that I hadn't beat him," Sabathia said.
Price (5-1) never found a rhythm and gave up 11 hits, many of them well tagged. Trying to win five consecutive starts for the first time in his career, he instead wound up on the wrong end of another personal first -- never before had two left-handed hitters homered off him in the same game.
"I made some good pitches tonight, they hit them, that's it," Price said. "It's a good hitting team. You make mistakes and they hit them."
Granderson lined a solo shot into the second deck in right field in the second. Cano's two-run drive in the fifth made it 4-2 and sailed far over the Yankees' bullpen in right-center.
Nunez started in the field while Alex Rodriguez served as the designated hitter. Nunez misplayed a grounder in the first and made a wild throw in the second. He also singled twice, walked and stole two bases, and was taken out after five innings with New York up, 5-2.
Girardi said it was a "tough night" in the field for Nunez, adding the team may ponder its use of him on defense.