Another stellar start in Tuesday’s rematch would be a shock to no one.
Jackson will look to continue his impressive April when he faces the Yankees and Pettitte again, this time in the final game of the AL East rivals’ brief series at Tropicana Field.
Pettitte was coming off an offseason riddled with controversy surrounding the Mitchell Report when he and Jackson faced off in the Bronx on April 5.
But Jackson was trying to forget a dismal 2007 season. In his first season as a starter for the Rays, Jackson went 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA last year - including 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three starts against New York.
But this year, the right-hander held the Yankees (7-7) to just one run in six innings, striking out four, as the Rays (6-7) won 6-3. Jackson (2-0, 0.64 ERA) was even better in his next start, allowing just two singles and four walks in eight shutout innings, striking out six in a 7-0 home win over Seattle last Thursday.
Tampa Bay had lost four straight before that game.
“When you throw a game like that to snap a four-game losing streak, it does a lot for your own self confidence,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m almost eager to see how he comes out on his next start and follows up, because he’s had two very good starts in a row.”
Pettitte (1-1, 3.09) struggled against the Rays, allowing eight hits and five runs - three earned - in just five innings earlier this month, but he was much better in New York’s 6-1 win at Kansas City on Thursday. In that game, he allowed one run on five hits in 6 2-3 innings.
“I really just started feeling good midway through the third inning and felt like I got into a really good rhythm,” Pettitte said. “That was good to see, hopefully I can carry this one into my next one.”
The Yankees will be looking to sweep the two-game set after outlasting the Rays for an 8-7 win on Monday. New York blew a 7-2 lead in the seventh inning, as Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and rookie Evan Longoria all homered, but the Yankees went back ahead for good on Robinson Cano’s pinch-hit home run in the eighth.
“I love the fight,” Maddon said. “We’ve got to stop making the mental mistakes that prevent us from winning games like tonight.”
Alex Rodriguez, Morgan Ensberg and Johnny Damon also homered for the Yankees, who avoided a three-game losing streak. They were playing with Derek Jeter in the lineup for the first time after the captain’s six-game absence due to a quadriceps strain.
“Everything feels fine,” said Jeter, who went 2-for-5 with two RBIs. “I didn’t run as hard as I could. It’s probably more mental than anything.”
The Yankees have now won three straight against the Rays after dropping their first two against them this season. They’ve also won three in a row and five of six at Tropicana Field dating back to last year.
Pettitte has won his last six road decisions against Tampa Bay, where he’s 7-1 with a 3.23 ERA in his career. He hasn’t lost to the Rays on the road since 1998.
New York may be without set-up man Joba Chamberlain for the second straight game. The right-hander went on the bereavement list Monday and left the team to visit his ailing father.