Rays-Yankees Preview

AP - Sports

The New York Yankees are 5-0 in games started by Ivan Nova against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Nova has benefited from tremendous run support all season long and seeks a third straight win Wednesday night when the Yankees and Rays continue a three-game set in the Bronx.

Nova (6-2, 5.60 ERA) is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in five outings against Tampa Bay (31-24), turning in one of his best 2012 efforts May 8 as he yielded two runs over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a 5-3 victory over the Rays.

He has fared well against Matt Joyce (1 for 13), B.J. Upton (2 for 13) and Ben Zobrist (2 for 10).

The right-hander has pitched considerably worse since that outing, going 2-1 with a 6.48 ERA in his next four. The victories have come in the last two, including last Wednesday's 6-5 road win over the Angels in which he allowed five runs over 6 2-3 innings.

Nova is enjoying a run-support average of 6.89 that is tied with teammate CC Sabathia for one of the best marks in the majors.

The Yankees (30-24) provided Andy Pettitte with great support in Tuesday's 7-0 victory. Russell Martin hit a grand slam off James Shields as part of a three-hit night to establish a six-run lead in the fourth inning.

"Anytime you get a shutout you feel like you've done as you're supposed to do as a catcher," Martin said, "and if you can contribute and hit a home run, a grand slam, against a tough pitcher that's even better."

Pettitte didn't need that much help, striking out 10 over 7 1-3 innings in New York's ninth win in 12 games. The Yankees moved a season-high six games over .500.

"Whether it's a streak or it's not a streak, I just like it,'' manager Joe Girardi said.

Tampa Bay has dropped six of nine. The Rays, who entered the contest with a .977 fielding percentage for one of baseball's worst marks, finished with three errors - two by Zobrist and one by Elliot Johnson that led to New York's two unearned runs in the first inning.

"We just didn't have a good night," manager Joe Maddon said. "We didn't play any area of the game well. I'm really looking for the next 24 hours to come around."

Hideki Matsui went 0 for 4 as he returned to the Bronx with his third team since winning the 2009 World Series MVP with the Yankees. Desmond Jennings was 1 for 4 in his return after missing nearly four weeks with a left knee strain.

Alex Cobb (2-1, 3.71), starting in place of the injured Jeff Niemann, will make his fourth 2012 start. He suffered his first loss, 4-3 to the White Sox last Wednesday by giving up four runs over five innings.

The right-hander has never pitched at Yankee Stadium. He did not earn a decision in his lone career outing against New York, a 5-4 defeat July 18 as he yielded two runs over six innings.

Cobb is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in five career road starts.

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