Rays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays head to Yankee Stadium in first place, but they may not feel too confident about their chances in Tuesday night's opener of a three-game set.

James Shields has dropped each of his last four outings in the Bronx as he matches up with Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees.

Tampa Bay (31-23) won 8-4 at home over Baltimore on Sunday to take two of three and gain a one-game lead in the AL East over the Orioles. New York (29-24) is 1 1/2 games back.

The Rays are happy to be in first with nine players on the disabled list.

"We've been able to hold serve," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're still on top. The guys who have been out there have been doing a great job. The effort has been fantastic."

Shields (6-3, 3.95 ERA), however, is 0-4 with a 4.05 ERA in his last four road games against the Yankees. He's 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two overall starts against New York in 2012, suffering his first loss of the year May 8 as he gave up three runs over six innings in a 5-3 defeat.

That outing began a 1-3 stretch with a 5.12 ERA for the right-hander since his 5-0 start. He gave up six runs over six innings last Tuesday in a 7-2 loss to the White Sox.

He'll have his work cut out for him against Robinson Cano, a career .403 hitter against Shields, while Raul Ibanez has homered twice off him this season.

This figures to be a tough matchup for Mark Teixeira, who is 6 for 45 with 14 strikeouts against Shields and 2 for 19 in the season series this year.

Tampa Bay is 8-11 against left-handed starters and will face Pettitte (2-2, 3.49) for the first time since 2010. Ben Zobrist is 7 for 16 with two homers against the southpaw.

Pettitte yielded five runs over seven innings last Tuesday in a 5-1 road loss to the Angels.

He'll get another chance to face Hideki Matsui, who is 1 for 6 against him. Matsui is returning to the Bronx with his third different team since capping his Yankees career by winning the 2009 World Series MVP.

The Japanese slugger is 3 for 16 with two homers since making his Rays debut last Tuesday.

"Obviously, I hope he doesn't do much against us, but it'll be good to see him," manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "The bottom line is, he can hit a home run against anyone if you don't make your pitches."

New York is back home after a 6-3 trip. The Yankees swept three in Oakland, dropped two of three against the Angels and took two of three in Detroit over the weekend.

"I thought we played well for the most part, we played well in Oakland, Anaheim was playing pretty good, and we won two of three here," Derek Jeter said after homering off Justin Verlander in Sunday's 5-1 victory. "But it doesn't get any easier, we play Tampa next."

Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce have combined for 15 RBIs in helping the Rays take four of six from the Yankees this year.

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