The New York Yankees have played nine straight series at Tropicana Field without winning any of them.
The Tampa Bay Rays have taken 13 of the last 16 home meetings as part of that run heading into Friday night’s opener of a three-game set between these AL East rivals.
New York (28-18) hasn’t captured a series at Tropicana since winning two of three April 9-11, 2010. The Rays (24-22) outscored the Yankees 11-5 with a 5-1 edge in homers in taking two of three at home in the lone 2013 series between these clubs April 22-24.
Tampa Bay star Evan Longoria is batting .397 during a career-high 16-game hitting streak that is three shy of Jason Bartlett’s club-record run in 2009. Longoria has reached base in all 25 games since going 0 for 4 against New York on April 24, hitting .386 with 19 RBIs and 23 runs scored in that span.
Longoria isn’t surprised that the injury-plagued Yankees are leading the powerful AL East.
“They are a team that’s playing as a team,” Longoria told the Rays’ official website. “They’ve figured out ways to win. They’ve been throwing the ball really well. Those are the teams that are really scary.
“Take us in 2008. Nobody knew who we were. But we played really well together as a team and figured out how to win.”
New York has used unknowns such as David Adams in its lineup, with the 26-year-old homering twice as the club lost two of three at Baltimore this week.
“He’s played extremely well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked, offensively, defensively, he’s been very, very good for us.”
The Yankees are trying to avoid their first three-game slide after falling 6-3 on Wednesday. One bright spot was Curtis Granderson going 3 for 3 with his first homer in his seventh game back after starting the season on the disabled list due to a broken right forearm.
“I liked how he was swinging the bat and I just felt it was a matter of time to start getting some hits and he swung the bat great tonight,” Girardi said.
Granderson, however, is a career .197 hitter at Tropicana Field for his lowest mark at any current AL ballpark. He could turn that around Friday since he’s a career .436 hitter (17 for 39 with three homers) against Tampa Bay starter Roberto Hernandez (2-4, 5.24 ERA).
Hernandez has posted an 11.34 ERA in losing his last four outings against New York, and Robinson Cano is 11 for 23 against the right-hander.
Tampa Bay owns the majors’ second-worst bullpen ERA at 4.80. Closer Fernando Rodney blew his fourth save to tie for the most in baseball in Wednesday’s 4-3, 10-inning defeat at Toronto.
“It’s been kind of difficult,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was another one that got away. Everybody is doing their best, they’re trying. It’s just not working out.”
On the mound for New York will be right-hander David Phelps (2-2, 3.83), who is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts. Phelps, who has allowed two runs over 13 2-3 innings in his last two starts, has yielded one run over 10 1-3 career innings against the Rays, although he has never faced Longoria.