ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After a rough start on Opening Day, CC Sabathia righted himself, looking like his old self in winning three straight.
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"I'm usually aggressive,'' said Sabathia, clearly still irritated with himself after allowing four first-inning runs and three homers in seven innings. "Just one of those things tonight where, I don't know. I don't know what I was thinking. I felt like I had better stuff than I've had. Just a bad day . . . Just not being aggressive, and that's not me.''
Sabathia (3-2, 3.34) has had plenty of those bad days in this building. The lefthander is 3-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 15 career starts at Tropicana Field, his lowest winning percentage in any major-league park.
"It's a different lineup every time,'' Sabathia said of his ledger here. "Just one of those things where I haven't pitched very good against them.''
The 23-year-old lefthander, who walked three and struck out nine in becoming the first pitcher in Rays history to win his first four starts of the season, didn't allow a hit until a homer by Robinson Cano (two hits) with one out in the fourth. But Cano's sixth homer pulled the Yankees only within 5-1.
"If he did give you a pitch to hit, if you missed it, you were walking back to the dugout,'' said Vernon Wells, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. "He's got good stuff. He's good.''
The Yankees (10-8) found themselves in the 5-0 deficit because Sabathia barely resembled the pitcher who had allowed five runs in 23 innings in his previous three starts, putting his Opening Day performance behind him.
Sabathia's fastball velocity was up a tick (90 to 92 mph) from what it had been (88 to 90). But the Rays (9-10), who have won four straight, scored four runs in the first inning, helped by home runs by Ryan Roberts, who hit two in the game, and Yunel Escobar.
Sabathia allowed a run and three hits in his final six innings, but the damage had been done.
"In the first inning, everything was flat,'' catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "But he's a warrior. He threw seven innings and we didn't help. We've got to hit. We've got to support him.''
But it was Moore, against whom righties are hitting .073 (4-for-55), who got the support.
Roberts, who entered the game 0-for-3 against Sabathia, had three hits in his first three at-bats against him. The home runs were his first and second of the season.
Roberts homered to leftfield on an 0-and-2 slider to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. With two outs in the first inning, in a span of four pitches, Sabathia gave up three hits -- a single by Evan Longoria, an RBI triple to right-center by Sean Rodriguez and a two-run homer to right by Escobar that made it 4-0. Roberts added a leadoff homer to left in the third on a 3-and-1 pitch.
"Can't expect your pitcher to be perfect every time,'' Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes you have to pick him up a little bit, and we weren't able to do that tonight.''