This key four-game series continues Wednesday night in the Bronx as the Yankees try to extend their AL East lead against the slumping Rays.
Curtis Granderson(notes) had two home runs to lead the Yankees to an 8-6 win in Monday’s series opener, and Nick Swisher’s(notes) homer sparked a five-run first inning in New York’s 8-3 victory Tuesday night.
Those wins have given the Yankees (92-59) a 2 1/2-game lead in the East as they chase a second straight division title. New York has six games left with rival Boston and three with Toronto after this series. Tampa Bay has a much easier remaining schedule with series left against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City - the three worst teams in the AL.
“I think we all pretty much know what’s at stake,” Swisher said. “Take the Rays and us and line us up, and let’s see what happens.
“Getting kind of chilly out there, smells like playoff baseball,” he added.
The Yankees have won four of five after a 2-8 stretch dropped them one-half game behind the Rays in the East. Tampa Bay (89-61), meanwhile, has lost three in a row and 10 of 16, but still owns a 6 1/2-game lead over Boston in the wild-card race.
A loss Wednesday would assure the Rays of losing the season series at New York for the 11th time in 13 years. They are 1-10-1 all-time in road season series against the Yankees.
“First inning, I made two or three bad pitches,” Shields said. “You let five runs in the first inning, that’s definitely not doing my job. With this team, you definitely can’t do that.”
Wade Davis(notes) (12-9, 4.19 ERA) will try to reverse that trend when he takes the mound for Tampa Bay. Davis is 7-0 with a 3.62 ERA in his last 11 outings, recording quality starts seven times during that span. He did not receive a decision in a 4-3 loss to the Angels on Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits in six innings.
The right-hander beat the Yankees for the second straight time July 30, limiting them to two runs and four hits over seven innings in a 3-2 victory. He is 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA lifetime against New York.
A.J. Burnett(notes) (10-13, 5.08) has been the weakest link in New York’s rotation lately, but is coming off his best start in over a month. He limited Baltimore to three runs and six hits over seven innings Friday before leaving without a decision in a 4-3 victory.
That was a huge improvement after Burnett went 1-3 with a 7.57 ERA in his previous five starts.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time tonight, as far as overall everything. … Every time out, they’re not giant steps but they’re steps forward,” Burnett said.
Burnett stretched his personal win streak against the Rays to six with a strong showing April 11, but he is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA in the past two meetings. He is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 24 starts versus Tampa Bay.
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
- A-Rod and Tiger getting questioned by federal agents
- AP source: Boston given 1-year ban on international amateurs
- Twins bring back utility player Sano from rehab assignment
- Streaking Indians win 13th straight, beat Blue Jays 4-1
- Marlins acquire Fernando Rodney in trade with San Diego
- Mets rally, hold off Cubs 4-3 to stop skid in NLCS rematch