New York (44-44) has won two of three games against Tampa Bay (35-55) since the All-Star break, but faces an uphill climb in order to secure a 13th straight postseason berth.
The club hasn’t had much success stringing together series victories. The Yankees captured a season-high four straight series from June 4-17, but that was the only time all year they won consecutive sets until this recent stretch.
Abreu has struggled for most of the season and was moved out of his familiar No. 3 spot in the batting order after he went 3-for-23 on the first five games of a road trip from June 19-23.
After he continued to hit poorly while manager Joe Torre shuffled him around in the lineup, Abreu eventually found his stride. He’s hitting .515 (17-for-33) with 12 RBIs during his current nine-game hitting streak.
Abreu went 2-for-5 and drove in a season-high five runs as the Yankees rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to win 6-4 Saturday. He has two homers and eight RBIs in this series.
“The first half of the season, I was very bad with runners in scoring position,” Abreu said. “I think a game like this is going to help me to carry on.”
Abreu is batting .377 with six homers and 40 RBIs in New York’s 44 wins, as opposed to .158 with one homer and nine RBIs in the team’s 44 losses.
“He’s as good as they come,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “Obviously we’re much better when he’s going like this.”
New York center fielder Melky Cabrera did not start Saturday because of flulike symptoms, although he entered in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement. It’s unclear whether he will return to the lineup Sunday.
Yankees starter Mike Mussina (4-6, 4.62 ERA) seeks to win on the road for the first time since May 3. He’s 0-3 with a 5.27 ERA in his last five road starts and has lasted past the sixth inning just once.
The right-hander lost at home in his final start before the All-Star break on July 4, giving up four runs over six-plus innings in a 6-2 defeat to Minnesota.
Mussina has dominated Tampa Bay in his home starts, going 9-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 11 outings, but hasn’t fared nearly as well on the road. He’s just 7-6 with a 4.52 ERA in 16 starts at Tropicana Field.
Devil Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, who is 1-for-10 in his career against Mussina, enters with an 11-game hitting streak. He went 2-for-4 on Saturday with his 21st homer of the season.
Edwin Jackson (1-9, 7.23) makes his first career start against New York. He pitched against the Yankees for the first time last year, posting a 5.06 ERA in four appearances out of the bullpen.
Jackson was tagged for seven runs over five innings in his last start, a 7-5 loss at Boston on July 4.
The right-hander, who has a 9.00 ERA at home this year, also faced two batters in relief Sunday at Kansas City.