Rays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

Mariano Rivera's last chance to appear at Yankee Stadium will be Thursday night.

Needless to say, the playoff-chasing Tampa Bay Rays will be hoping to see the retiring closer in a non-save situation.

The Rays seek a seventh straight win and their first three-game sweep in the Bronx in the Yankees' home finale.

New York (82-76) was eliminated for the second time in the last 19 seasons Wednesday during an 8-3 defeat. The Yankees will finish with their lowest win total in a 162-game season since the 1992 team went 76-86.

It means Thursday marks the last opportunity for Rivera to pitch at home. Baseball's all-time saves leader made his impact felt as the Yankees captured five World Series titles during his tenure, with Rivera posting the lowest ERA of any pitcher with at least 40 postseason innings with a 0.70 mark over 141.0.

"I'll be there for the fans. They deserve it,'' the 43-year-old said. "But it don't mean anything. I'm not used to pitching for something that doesn't mean anything. I wanted to pitch for something that means something."

Rivera owns 64 saves in 66 chances against Tampa Bay, going 27-for-27 in the Bronx.

The Rays (89-69) have too much at stake to want to face Rivera in a save situation. Tampa Bay holds a one-game lead over Cleveland for the AL's top wild-card and has a magic number of three to reach the playoffs.

"I'm really just focused on Thursday,'' manager Joe Maddon said.

The Yankees are losers of three straight and eight of 11 and haven't even enjoyed a lead in this series.

New York also hasn't been able to slow down Evan Longoria, who is 5 for 9 in this series after homering twice and driving in four runs Wednesday. Longoria is the second player since 1966 to go deep nine times against the Yankees, joining Toronto's Jose Cruz Jr. from 2001.

He has 12 homers and 32 RBIs at new Yankee Stadium to go along with a .301 average and 25 home runs overall versus New York.

"I like hitting in this ballpark, and some people have their team that they just do well against," Longoria said. "For the longest time, in the earliest part of my career, it was the Red Sox. Lately, it's the Yankees."

Longoria is 4 for 10 with a homer this year against Ivan Nova (9-5, 3.13 ERA), who makes his final 2013 start for New York. Nova struck out seven in a six-hitter Saturday for his second shutout of the year in a 6-0 victory over San Francisco.

The right-hander is 0-2 with a 2.66 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay this season, getting three total runs of support.

He'll be opposed by Alex Cobb (10-3, 2.90), who is 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in six career starts against New York including 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA in three this year. The right-hander has captured consecutive starts by surrendering three runs over 16 1-3 innings.

Robinson Cano is 5 for 10 against Cobb this year and the second baseman has 12 hits in his last 28 at-bats.

Thursday also marks the final home game for Alex Rodriguez before his offseason appeal of a 211-game Biogenesis suspension. He is in a 3-for-39 slump and 0 for 5 versus Cobb.

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