The Tampa Bay Rays know from last season they have plenty of time to make a run for the playoffs.
However, with only six games left against the division-leading Yankees, they know the opportunity to make up ground is right in front of them, starting with a three-game series against New York that begins Monday at Tropicana Field.
"It's huge," said James Shields, who starts the opener against Yankees ace CC Sabathia. "Obviously we want to try and sweep them, there's no doubt about it. But we've got to try to definitely win the series and at least gain a game or two on them."
Pitching has been the key for the Rays, as they have gone 5-1 against the Yankees at home this season and 7-5 overall. After Shields, they will have Alex Cobb on Tuesday and Matt Moore on Wednesday.
The bigger question for them is their offense, specifically whether they can look more like they did Sunday in a 9-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, in rapping a season-high 18 hits, or most of August, when they were shut out six times.