NEW YORK Up by nine runs in the late innings, the Tampa Bay Rays wound up needing their closer to finish off their latest victory.
"It's not always an oil painting," manager Joe Maddon observed.
Masterpiece or not, here's a portrait of a winning team: From last place a month ago to leading the tough American League East.
Jeremy Hellickson retired Yankees newcomer Alfonso Soriano with the bases loaded to preserve an early lead, and the streaking Rays tagged CC Sabathia once again, beating New York 10-6 Friday night.
The Rays have won 20 of 23 and took sole possession of the division lead for the first time since June 10, 2012. Recently seven games behind, Tampa Bay moved a half-game ahead of Boston.
"Of course there's gratification in it, but there's no complacency," Maddon said. "It's always good to validate what you're doing."
Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Evan Longoria doubled during a six-run burst in the second inning, and James Loney later homered and drove in four runs as the Rays got way ahead in the seventh.
"We were playing such a great game tonight. Not a good game, a great game," Maddon said. "Unfortunately, we let (up on) them a little."
"You don't want an under-duress moment after you're up 10-1 and have to sweat one out," he said. "That's not cool."
The Yankees acquired Soriano from the Chicago Cubs before the game, trading a minor-league pitcher to get the seven-time All-Star and lots of cash to cover much of his contract.
Soriano got his chance to make a sudden impact, batting with the bases loaded, two outs in the third and the Yankees trailing 6-1. He worked the count full before lofting a routine fly to right that ended the inning.
Soriano, who began his career with the Yankees in 1999 and drew a big ovation in his return, went 0 for 5.
"It's a good day for me today to have a chance to put on the uniform again," he said. "I hope we have a better chance tomorrow."