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AP - Sports

David Price's dominance is a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays are atop the AL East by percentage points.

CC Sabathia may be one of the reasons the New York Yankees aren't even close.

Price looks to continue his impressive stretch while Sabathia attempts to show some dramatic improvement in the middle game of this series Saturday night.

Tampa Bay (73-53) is in a virtual tie with Boston for the division lead, but the Rays have played fewer games to gain a small edge.

Price (7-5, 3.29 ERA) has compiled a 1.89 ERA over his last 10 starts, the lowest in the AL since July 1. Over that stretch, he's 6-1 while tossing three complete games and limiting opponents to 60 hits and five walks in 76 1-3 innings.

His streak of reaching at least the seventh inning ended at nine games Monday, though, when he labored through 99 pitches in five innings while allowing two runs and 10 hits in a 4-3 win at Baltimore.

"You have to give David credit," manager Joe Maddon said. "David did not have his best night, but nevertheless ... I really, really appreciated his effort."

Price, though, is 1-4 with a 3.84 ERA in nine home starts, including a 4-3 loss to the Yankees (68-60) on April 23 in which he allowed three runs in eight innings. That's been all too common for Price against them, as he's 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA over his last six home meetings, getting backed by two or fewer runs in four of those outings.

He may have found some comfort in Tampa Bay opening this three-game set by hitting four homers in a 7-2 win.

Another strong performance at the plate could be in order since Sabathia (11-10, 4.83) is 2-3 with a 7.75 ERA in seven starts.

The left-hander, though, has won his last two games partly due to getting 15 runs of support. He's surrendered nine runs with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks in 11 1-3 innings in those victories.

The offense bailed out Sabathia again Sunday, when he gave up six runs and issued five walks in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-6 win at Boston.

Sabathia, who is trying to win a third straight start for the first time since April 7-17, has an 8.31 ERA while losing three of his four starts against the Rays this year. That includes a 10-6 loss July 26, when he was battered for seven runs and nine hits in five innings.

The ace's struggles may be partly to blame for the Yankees entering play 6 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the East and 3 1/2 back of Oakland for the league's second wild-card spot.

New York became a factor in the postseason chase by winning 10 of 12 prior to Friday's loss, but manager Joe Girardi isn't worried.

"It's one game," Girardi said. "We've just come off playing extremely well. You have to turn the page and go win (Saturday)."

Production from Alex Rodriguez would surely help. The embattled third baseman is 0 for 10 over the past three games after hitting .320 in his first 13 following his return from hip surgery.

He's 6 for 28 (.214) with 12 strikeouts over the last three seasons versus Price.

The Rays' Jose Lobaton may be back behind the plate since he's 9 for 17 (.529) with a triple, two homers and seven RBIs in five games. He had two hits, including a three-run homer, and four RBIs on Friday.

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