ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are used to being carried late into ballgames by the left arm of David Price, so it was only fitting they rallied when their ace was in a hole Monday against the New York Yankees.
Price had his second-shortest outing this season and left the game after only five innings trailing 5-1, thanks to a three-run home run by Yankees hot-hitting CF Curtis Granderson.
But the Rays' 6-5 win over the Yankees became a complete team effort. Tampa Bay picked up Price with five runs to take the lead in sixth thanks to homers by Sam Fuld and B.J. Upton.
Meanwhile, three relievers — Juan Cruz, Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth — retired the last 12 Yankees and allowed only one baserunner after Price was knocked out of the game.
"It's not very often that he doesn't go at least into the seventh," Fuld said of Price. "That's crucial to know that we can pick him up on those rare occasions he doesn't go seven strong or eight or nine (innings). We need to be able to do that."
It was only the second time in his past 17 starts that Price pitched less than six innings. Speaking of anomalies, Granderson became the first left-handed batter to homer off Price in nearly two years (since the Phillies' Chase Utley, June 23, 2009) when he blasted a 3-and-2 pitch into the rightfield seats for his 14th of the season.
"He's hot right now," Price said of Granderson. "It's a tough lineup. They hit fastballs and I didn't feel like I had my best stuff today, but my teammates picked me up and that's what it's about."
Cruz allowed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano in the sixth and that was it. Peralta worked a perfect seventh and eighth then Farnsworth retired New York in order in the ninth for his eighth save.
"They pitched lights out for us," Price said. "That was what we needed."
SONNY'S DAY: The Rays plan to give RHP Andy Sonnanstine, unimpressive thus far in replacing injured RHP Jeff Niemann, a third start, on Friday at Florida. "As of right now, Sonny is in that spot," manager Joe Maddon said.
Sonnanstine has pitched well at Sun Life Stadium (2-0, 1.90) and, with a career .318 average, is among the best hitting pitchers in the AL. The other options would be bringing back RHP Alex Cobb (4-0, 1.31 at Triple-A Durham) or taking a first look at LHP Alex Torres (2-3, 2.21).
SORI STORY: Former Rays closer Rafael Soriano said it felt good to be back at Tropicana Field, but he won't be able to pitch due to a sore elbow that has his immediate future in question.
"I'm not going to play, but I had a lot of good moments here," Soriano said. "I'm happy to see good friends that I have and we'll see what happens."
Soriano complained of stiffness in his right elbow Friday against the Red Sox. After throwing a bullpen session Monday, he reported no improvement.
J.P. DUTY: LHP J.P. Howell's return to the Rays will be delayed a day until Friday, as rain in Syracuse washed out Monday's final rehab appearance.
Howell — after a drive to New York City's JFK Airport and a flight to Tampa — is now scheduled to pitch 11/3 innings tonight for Class A Port Charlotte, then meet the Rays in south Florida for Friday's game at the Marlins.
Howell was hoping to return to the Rays by Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of his shoulder surgery. Maddon said they don't want to alter the rehab schedule.
"It's part of the plan," he said. "When you get this close to the finish line, stay with the plan and we'll work it from there."
MISCELLANY: Fuld not only needed two stitches in his lip after Sunday's hard slide at second but also broke the crown on a tooth. … OF Matt Joyce's six days atop the AL batting race are the most of any Ray.