Rapid Reaction: Yankees 5, Rays 3

WHAT IT MEANS: The Yankees secure an important series victory over their chief rivals in the American League East this season, courtesy of a 5-3 win over the Rays on Thursday night.

The victory erases some of the sting of Wednesday night's ninth-inning collapse, and being swept by the Rays in the season-opening series in St. Petersburg.

The Yankees improve to 17-14 on the year; the Rays fall to 20-12.

THE BIG MAN: The Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, has been pitching like one of late, and that only continued on Thursday night.

Sabathia wasn't particularly sharp early, and was let down by his defense in the first two innings, which led to two unearned runs (see below). But after that, he mowed down the Rays with relative ease. He gave up just three singles and a walk over the next six innings, before giving way to Rafael Soriano, who closed out the ninth, giving up one run. Sabathia had 10 strikeouts on the evening, and threw a season-high 119 pitches.

It's the fourth straight start that Sabathia has gone eight innings -- and his length was particularly important tonight, considering the bullpen pitched 5-1/3 innings on Wednesday, and David Robertson was unavailable after pitching the past two nights. Sabathia has now won five starts in a row now, and is 5-0 with a 3.51 ERA on the season.

THE BIG INNING: The Yankees broke up a 2-2 tie by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth off Rays starter David Price, who was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA coming into the game.

Robinson Cano's two-run homer was the biggest hit of the frame -- Cano was 3-for-4 on the night. Alex Rodriguez doubled immediately after Cano's dinger, and was driven home three batters later on a double by Andruw Jones.

(Curtis Granderson also hit his 11th home run of the season, a solo shot, back in the second inning.)

THE BIG LIABILITY: Eduardo Nunez got the start at third base tonight, with Rodriguez getting a half-day off at DH, and it was an adventure as usual.

Nunez booted a routine ground ball in the first inning, which paved the way for the first Rays run. Then in the second inning, a Nunez throw to second base on a fielder's choice sailed into the outfield, leading to another unearned run.

The errors were Nunez's third and fourth of the season in 14 starts, after committing 20 of them a year ago. He did his best to redeem himself at the plate, with a pair of singles, a walk and two stolen bases. But in the top of the sixth, right after the Yankees took that 5-2 lead, Joe Girardi replaced Nunez at third with Jayson Nix.

ON DECK: Andrew Marchand will have a column for you on Sabathia and his gem of a performance. I'll cover Cano, Nunez and more in the blog.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Yankees stay at home, and welcome in the Seattle Mariners for a three-game series over the weekend. On Friday night at 7:05, you'll seeHiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.75 ERA) for the Yanks, versus Felix Hernandez (3-1, 1.89 ERA) for the Mariners.