ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) CC Sabathia protected his teammates, not his wallet.
The 38-year-old left-hander got his 246th win and moved the New York Yankees closer to hosting next week's AL wild-card game but may have cost himself a $500,000 bonus.
Sabathia was ejected from Thursday's 12-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth inning for hitting Jesus Sucre on a leg in retaliation for Tampa Bay reliever Andrew Kittredge throwing a pitch behind Austin Romine.
Making his final regular-season start, Sabathia had thrown 55 pitches over five innings to raise his season innings total to 153 - two shy of a $500,000 performance bonus in his contract.
''I don't really make decisions based on money, I guess,'' Sabathia said. ''I just felt like it was the right thing to do.''
Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn't rule out Sabathia (9-7) getting into a game this weekend in Boston.
''That's definitely above my pay grade,'' Boone said when asked whether New York should still pay the bonus.
New York (98-61) ensured its winningest season since going 103-59 en route to the 2009 World Series title and moved two games ahead of Oakland (96-63) for hosting the Oct. 3 wild-card game. The Yankees hold the tiebreaker, which means one more Yankees win or Athletics loss ensures the winner-take-all game would be in the Bronx. The wild-card winner advances to a Division Series against AL East champion Boston.
''We know what's at stake, and we took a good step toward it,'' Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said after homering twice to raise his season total to 37.
Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit also went deep for the Yankees. New York's 260 homers tied the 2005 Texas Rangers for the second-most in major league history, four behind the 1997 Seattle Mariners.
With New York ahead 7-0, Sabathia hit Jake Bauers on the knuckles of his right hand with an 88 mph two-seam fastball with two outs in the fifth.
Kittredge threw a 93 mph fastball behind Romine's neck with his initial pitch in the sixth, and plate umpire Vic Carapazza issued a warning to both benches.
''I think there's no question there was intent. You throw one over the head, I hated it,'' Boone said.
Sabathia started out of the Yankees dugout and had to be intercepted by Boone.
''I think we all took exception to that, I think, anytime you feel a player's safety is in jeopardy,'' Sabathia said.
Romine turned to the catcher and asked Sucre, ''Why?''
''You can't throw balls at people's head, plain and simple,'' Romine said.
After New York opened an 11-0 lead, Sabathia hit Sucre the lower left leg with a 93 cutter on his first pitch in the bottom half, causing Carapazza to eject the pitcher and Boone.
Sucre declined to comment, while Kittredge said it's ''just baseball.''
''Obviously that was a high-and-tight pitch,'' Kittredge said. ''That's not a comfortable feeling for him. It is what it is, I guess.''
Sabathia stared and pointed toward the Tampa Bay bench while walking to the Yankees dugout after being tossed. Relievers in both bullpens stood up but the other players remained in the dugouts.
''You don't throw at someone's head. He did what he felt he needed to do,'' Stanton said of Sabathia.
Sabathia, likely the Yankees' fourth starter during the postseason, allowed one hit, lowered his season ERA to 3.65 and struck out five to increase his career total to 2,986. He has a $10 million base salary in his one-year contract.
Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga completed a two-hitter, giving New York its third straight series win. Cessa gave up C.J Cron's homer in the seventh.
Andujar hit a three-run homer during a four-run first off Jaime Schultz (2-2). Aaron Judge had a sacrifice fly and Voit hit an RBI double in a three-run fourth.
New York's four-run sixth included back-to-back solo homers by Voit and Stanton, who had his 32nd multihomer game.
Tampa Bay's Tommy Pham walked in the ninth to extend his on-base streak to 29 games, the longest active run in the AL.
Yankees: CF Aaron Hicks (left hamstring) should start Friday night and SS Didi Gregorius (right wrist) also could also return during the final regular-season series. Both ran the bases and took batting practice, while Gregorius took grounders. ''Looking good for both of them,'' Boone said. ... Neil Walker started at third base, one day after getting hit by a pitch on the left shin.
Rays: 3B Matt Duffy (right quadriceps) will have his status evaluated Friday.
Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (16-6, including 6-0 with Yankees) is scheduled to start Friday night at Boston, which lines him up to pitch against Oakland on regular rest. RHP Luis Severino starts Sunday, which lines him up for a Division Series opener at Fenway Park on Oct. 5. RHP Rick Porcello (17-7) starts Friday for the Red Sox.
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow (2-7) starts Friday for the Rays and LHP Thomas Pannone (4-1) for Toronto.
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