Tampa Bay (89-61) at New York (92-59)

Thunderstorms Currently: New York, NY, US
Temp: 74° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Wed Sep 22, 2010
  • TV: ESPN, YES
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The New York Yankees appear to have righted themselves after a rough stretch. The Tampa Bay Rays are still stuck in theirs.

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.

Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher struggled again Tuesday, as James Shields(notes) allowed five runs over 5 1-3 innings. Rays starters are 4-6 with a 5.47 ERA this month.

“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.

Alex Rodriguez(notes) is 4 for 11 with two homers off Davis.

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.

Evan Longoria(notes) is 12 for 31 (.387) with a homer against Burnett.

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Starting Pitchers

W. Davis KC vs. A. Burnett PIT
12-10 Record 10-15
4.07 ERA 5.26
113 K 145
62 BB 78
1.35 WHIP 1.51

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Sep 22