While Ivan Nova has been one of the New York Yankees’ most consistent starters of late, Alex Cobb has pitched extremely well since returning from a frightening injury for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The talented right-handers square off Sunday when the Rays try to complete a three-game home sweep of the Yankees.
New York (68-61) came into the set winners of five straight and 10 of 12, but managed four runs and 11 hits through the first two. After David Price outpitched CC Sabathia in Saturday’s 4-2 loss, the Yankees are seven games back and in fourth place in the AL East and 4 1/2 behind Oakland - with Cleveland and Baltimore in between - in the race for the final wild-card spot.
“It’s not what you want, but you’ve got to turn it around (Sunday),” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can’t let this carry over.”
Tampa Bay (74-53), which leads the East by percentage points over Boston, has won eight of 10 overall and 20 of 25 at Tropicana Field.
“Our guys believed we were going to win (Saturday),” manager Joe Maddon said. “Not in a cocky way, just in a very confident way.
“When you get to that point in the year and you get that vibe among your group, it’s kind of a good thing.”
Cobb (8-2, 2.85 ERA) looks to help the Rays sweep a home series from New York for a third straight season.
He has allowed two earned runs, six hits and overcome six walks in 11 innings to win both starts since he missed two months after being hit in the head by a line drive June 15. Cobb walked four but gave up one of those earned runs and three hits in six innings of a 7-4 victory at Baltimore on Tuesday.
“Physically, he is (OK),” Maddon told the team’s official website. “Mentally and emotionally, I think he is. I don’t see any after-effects from what happened. He’s throwing the ball really well. The ball has been alive.”
He has a 1.52 ERA while winning three straight starts against Yankees, including a pair at home this season in which he’s yielded two runs, eight hits and struck out 15 over 16 2-3 innings.
Nova (7-4, 3.17), meanwhile, is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in eight starts since the beginning of July. However, he hopes for a better effort after matching a season high by allowing four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-4 victory over Toronto on Tuesday.
Though Nova has lost both previous 2013 starts versus Tampa Bay, he’s posted a 2.63 ERA while the Yankees have been outscored 4-1.
Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria is 5 for 22 with a home run versus Nova, but had three hits Saturday and matched a career high by homering in three straight home games for the second time this season.
Longoria, who delivered a tiebreaking single in the sixth, is 12 for 26 with four home runs and five doubles in his last seven home contests.
Mark Reynolds had two hits Saturday for the Yankees after going 0 for 12 in the previous five games. He’s 0 for 5 with three strikeouts versus Cobb.
Teammate Alfonso Soriano is 2 for 27 over the last seven contests following a five-game stretch where he went 15 for 22 with five homers and 18 RBIs.