Rays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays are in good position to ensure they will play one more game at home.

In order for the New York Yankees to finish ahead of Tampa Bay, they must sweep this week's three-game series in the Bronx.

The Rays can guarantee themselves a second-place AL East finish and take another step toward the playoffs when they send Matt Moore to the mound in Tuesday night's opener.

Tampa Bay (87-69) owns the AL's top wild-card, with a one-game lead over Cleveland. The Rays have a magic number of five to reach the playoffs.

"You can feel it, you can't necessarily describe it, but it's there,'' manager Joe Maddon said "You know that your guys have that vibe going on. It's a good feeling.''

Maddon's club helped put some distance between itself and one of its pursuers by sweeping a four-game set with Baltimore capped by Monday's 5-4 victory in which pinch-hitter James Loney led off the ninth with a walk-off homer.

"It feels pretty good, obviously, to win the game like that in the last game of the regular season at home ... it's a special feeling,'' Loney said.

New York (82-74) is five games behind Tampa Bay and four behind Cleveland with six games left. The Yankees have dropped six of nine, falling 2-1 at home to San Francisco on Sunday.

"We're still alive obviously, but this one really hurt,'' manager Joe Girardi said. "It's tough."

It should to be tough to defeat Moore (15-4, 3.34 ERA), who is 8-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 14 road starts, with Tampa Bay winning 12 of them.

One of those defeats was a 6-5 loss at New York on July 28 in which Moore gave up five runs over five innings and did not receive a decision. The left-hander went 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his first three starts this year against the Yankees.

Moore wasn't happy about his effort Thursday as he gave up six runs in four innings in an 8-2 home loss to Texas.

"There's someone responsible for the damage and I'm that person," Moore said.

New York is 30-21 against left-handed starters. Moore's first big league start was a 15-8 victory in the Bronx in which he earned the win with five scoreless innings Sept. 22, 2011.

Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda (11-12, 3.17) will try to avoid his first eight-start winless stretch since his 2008 rookie season. He fell to 0-5 with a 6.37 ERA in his last seven after allowing three runs in six innings in Thursday's 6-2 loss at Toronto.

The right-hander is 2-2 in four career starts against Tampa Bay with a 7.23 ERA - his highest against any foe. He has faced the Rays once this year, allowing seven runs and a career high-tying four homers over six innings in a 7-2 loss Aug. 23.

Ben Zobrist is 5 for 10 with two home runs off Kuroda and Matt Joyce is 4 for 11 and has gone deep twice.

Evan Longoria has homered seven times in the season series, with the Rays winning nine of 16.

Vernon Wells is 3 for 35 in those games for New York, including 11 hitless at-bats versus Moore.

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