Jacoby Ellsbury got a late start off the bat and Carlos Beltran hardly moved at all. Wil Myers didn't run all that hard, either.
The ball seemed ticketed for the Yankees' bullpen, but Myers' third-inning drive to right-centerfield off CC Sabathia actually hit the padding on the very top of the wall, mere inches from being a three-run home run.
Then it got interesting.
After hitting the wall, the ball ricocheted off the chest of the leaping Ellsbury -- who crashed into the fence and fell onto his back -- and rolled down the warning track toward rightfield. Myers, who had jogged toward first base while watching his drive, turned on the speed and steamed around the bases.
Beltran, who did not immediately move to back up the play, was late getting to the ball. He picked it up in front of the small scoreboard in right-center and threw on a bounce to relay man Yangervis Solarte, who couldn't handle it. As the ball sat on the grass, Myers scored standing up for a tiebreaking three-run inside-the-park home run.
It was the worst moment of a bad day for the Yankees.
Sabathia was strafed for 10 hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 5-1 loss to the Rays on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, who have lost four of five, have to be concerned about Sabathia, their former ace. His fastball a distant memory, he fell to 3-4 with a 5.75 ERA.
"Going through this adversity has been the toughest part of my baseball career by far," he said. "But I know I'll come out of this."
Yankees fans really cheered only twice: When Eli Manning (and his big brother Peyton, guests of Derek Jeter) were shown on the centerfield scoreboard, and when Joe Girardi walked out to remove Sabathia.
The inside-the-park homer didn't help, and it didn't look good that Beltran took so long to get to the ball. "We have to take care of that, yes," Girardi said.
Said Beltran: "Sometimes you get caught watching the play. Sometimes you react. Ideally, you hope to be there. On that play, the perfect thing for me would be to react a little bit faster. If I would have reacted right away, it would have been a triple."
Ellsbury later made a tremendous catch against the wall on an eerily similar ball hit by Logan Forsythe in the eighth.
As for Sabathia, the Yankees would seem to have no option other than to keep sending him out there.
With Ivan Nova lost for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda on the disabled list with a lat strain, the Yankees already are using two fill-in starters.
Plus, Sabathia, who will make $23 million in 2014, is owed a guaranteed $53 million in 2015-16, including a $5-million buyout. He also has a vesting option for 2017 that will pay him $25 million if he doesn't hurt his left shoulder in 2016.
"I know I can get these guys out," he said. "I've done it. So stay confident and keep going."
The Rays hit Sabathia hard from the start. Forsythe led off the game with a double off the leftfield wall and scored one out later on Evan Longoria's ground-rule double to rightfield.
The Yankees tied it against Erik Bedard (1-1) in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Solarte. Bedard -- who was 0-9 in his previous 15 starts -- went six innings plus one batter and allowed one run and six hits.
Myers' homer made it 4-1. Sabathia allowed two more singles in the inning but escaped. He would not make it out of the fourth.
One-out singles by Forsythe and Desmond Jennings put runners at first and second before Longoria sent a grounder wide of first to Mark Teixeira, who threw to second for the force. Solarte, who took the throw, could not try for an inning-ending double play because Sabathia was late covering first.
"I thought that ball was getting through," Sabathia said. "I didn't know where Tex was playing . . . No excuse."
After Myers ripped an RBI double into the leftfield corner, Girardi came out to get Sabathia, who was booed as he walked off.
"I would have booed myself today, too," he said. "I'm just as tough on myself as any other fan. I wouldn't want to come to the ballpark and watch that."