Price pitched six strong innings and the surging Rays won for the eighth time in 10 games, rallying to beat CC Sabathia 4-2 and hang on to first place in the AL East on Saturday night.
"Whenever you're pitching against a guy like CC, you give up three runs and you're going to lose. That's what happened," Price said. "It was the first guy to give up that third run was going to get that loss."
Evan Longoria snapped a 2-2 tie with a sixth-inning RBI single and added a solo homer in the eighth to help reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Price (8-5) win his fifth consecutive decision and improve to 7-1 since a stint on the disabled list for a left triceps strain.
Sabathia (11-11) took a 2-0 lead into the sixth before giving up three quick runs the Rays used to remain in first place, percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
"It's frustrating," Sabathia said. "One big inning. I just feel like I can't stop the bleeding."
The fourth-place Yankees have dropped the first two games of a weekend series after winning five straight as part of a surge that carried them back into playoff contention.
"It's not what you want, but you've got to turn it around tomorrow. You can't let this carry over," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You've got to turn it around tomorrow and play well the rest of this road trip."
Sabathia, the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland, allowed three runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven.
"You look at the [first] five innings, it's probably the best five innings, maybe, he's thrown all year in a group like that," Girardi said. "We need to win games. That's the frustrating part. He didn't pitch that poorly of a game. We didn't score runs. We only scored two runs."
This was the ninth time in their careers that Price and Sabathia have faced each other. The Rays have won eight of those games, with Price going 6-1 in the matchups.
But Tampa Bay's success against Sabathia extends beyond Price outpitching the Yankees ace.
Sabathia has won just four of his 23 starts against the Rays since signing with New York as a free agent before the 2009 season. He was 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 11 starts against Tampa Bay prior to joining the Yankees.
The 33-year-old's bid to reverse the trend went well early, with Sabathia limiting the Rays to Longoria's first-inning double on a hard grounder up the third base line until Tampa Bay broke through for three runs in the sixth.
Sam Fuld's bloop single to left got the Rays going. Desmond Jennings drew a four-pitch walk and both runners scored when Ben Zobrist lined a double into the gap in left-center field to move into fourth place on Tampa Bay's career RBI list with 450. Longoria singled to center to give Price a 3-2 lead.
The walk was only the sixth Price has allowed in 11 starts since coming off the disabled list on July 2.
"You've got to be in the dugout to understand. That game began today and our guys believed we were going to win. Not in a cocky way, just in a very confident way," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"When you get to that point in the year -- almost September -- and you get that vibe among your group, it's kind of a good thing. We've been there before as a playoff and it really smells that way again."
Girardi said that barring a setback, SS Derek Jeter (strained right calf) will rejoin the team Monday in Toronto. ... Rays All-Star LHP Matt Moore, on the 15-day disabled list due to left elbow soreness, pitched a simulated game and could be on track to return to the rotation soon. The 14-game winner said he felt good after the 49-pitch outing. "Today was a very positive day. I think we definitely can build off this," Moore said. ... Yankees OF Brett Gardner was out of the lineup against the left-handed throwing Price. He pinch-hit in the ninth against Rodney and flied to center to end the game. ... New York 1B Lyle Overbay (flulike symptoms) took batting practice, but didn't start for the second straight game.