Rays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

Meager production at the plate has left the New York Yankees sputtering on their current homestand. They may need to turn that around with the Tampa Bay Rays up next.

The Yankees attempt to shake out of their offensive funk by trying to solve David Price and the Rays in the opener of this three-game set at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

New York (15-12) is hitting .260 and averaging 4.1 runs this season, but it has batted .197 with 2.6 runs per contest while dropping three of five on the eight-game homestand.

"Sometimes pitchers are going to be better than you," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who is 4 for 19 with seven strikeouts over the past five games.

The Yankees' recent struggles were on display Thursday when they managed seven hits - six singles - in a 4-2 loss that gave Seattle a sweep of a rain-shortened two-game set.

"We know we're going to hit. We know we're going to play better. It's going to come," said Carlos Beltran, who is 1 for 18 on the homestand.

New York split four games at Tampa Bay from April 17-20. The Rays (13-16) piled up 27 runs in their victories but just three in the losses. A change of venue in this AL East rivalry could benefit both the Rays and Price, who was hit hard April 17, allowing six earned runs and two homers in five innings of a 10-2 loss.

The Yankees have hit .206 and been outscored 38-16 while dropping six of the past seven home meetings with Tampa Bay. They were shut out three times over that stretch and have struggled against Price (3-2, 4.75 ERA) in the Bronx.

The left-hander has won three straight starts there with a 2.37 ERA while holding the Yankees to .197 average at the plate. He allowed two runs with eight strikeouts in seven innings of an 8-3 win at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25.

Price, though, is coming off a rough road outing Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. He got through five scoreless innings but allowed eight runs - six earned - before leaving with no outs in the seventh. He also committed one of the Rays' season-high four errors that led to a four-run seventh.

Price has a 2.93 ERA in his four starts that ended in wins for Tampa Bay.

James Loney, who is 16 for 28 with nine RBIs over the past seven games, may also be looking forward to visiting the Bronx after batting .429 there in 12 games.

The first baseman enters this series with a .396 average while plating 12 runs over the past 13 overall. He collected five hits - two doubles - and two RBIs in three games at Boston to help Tampa Bay take two of those contests with a doubleheader sweep Thursday.

Loney is 2 for 5 versus scheduled Yankees starter Vidal Nuno (0-0, 6.59), who began the season in the bullpen. However, he's expected to get a third turn in the rotation after Ivan Nova was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery.

Nuno was impressive in his first start April 20, allowing three hits with six strikeouts in five scoreless innings of a 5-1 win in 12 innings at Tampa Bay. He followed that six days later by allowing three runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

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