Rays-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

With the New York Yankees showing signs of breaking out of their monthlong offensive slump, Ivan Nova might be making his return at an opportune time.

The right-hander will try to remain unbeaten against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sunday when New York looks to finish this four-game series with a third straight win.

While they rank near the bottom of the major leagues with a .219 batting average and 70 runs scored in June, the Yankees (41-33) have started to heat up with 13 runs and 18 hits in their last two victories.

Vernon Wells, batting .118 over his previous 30 games, came off the bench to hit a three-run double that keyed a four-run seventh inning as New York rallied for a 7-5 win Saturday.

"It was good to hit a ball and it not land in somebody's glove,'' Wells said. "And it came at a great time.''

Rookie Zoilo Almonte, called up from Triple-A on Tuesday, has sparked the team's scoring surge, going 5 for 7 with a homer and four RBIs in this series.

The Yankees now look to win three straight for the first time since a four-game run June 3-6.

Since a rainout against the Los Angeles Dodgers forced Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes to pitch in Wednesday's doubleheader, Nova (2-1, 5.16 ERA) is expected to make his first start for the Yankees since April 26.

Nova had a 2.04 ERA over three starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He's 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in four starts with New York.

Nova, though, has been tough on the Rays (38-37), going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five career home starts.

He's done a particularly nice job against Ben Zobrist (2 for 18), Matt Joyce (2 for 17), Jose Molina (2 for 15) and Yunel Escobar (2 for 13).

Sean Rodriguez has had the most success when facing Nova with five hits - including a homer and two doubles - in 12 career at-bats, while Desmond Jennings was 4 for 9 with a double and triple last season.

Nova will get his first look at Rays rookie Wil Myers, who had three hits and a sixth-inning grand slam that gave Tampa Bay a brief 5-3 lead Saturday.

"It was just awesome to be down two strikes and the crowd cheering and to be able to put a swing like that on it,'' Myers said. "Just a cool experience.''

Evan Longoria has also done some damage in this series, going 4 for 10 with three homers.

The Rays have dropped 10 of 14, largely due to a starting rotation that has a 6.24 ERA during that span. They're hoping to earn a series split with Chris Archer (1-3, 5.03) taking the ball.

The Yankees have never faced Archer, though a patient approach likely would serve them well. Archer has worked into the sixth inning only once in his four starts due to high pitch counts and 14 walks in 19 2-3 innings.

The right-hander threw a career-high 109 pitches in 4 2-3 on Tuesday, allowing five free passes and four runs, in a 5-1 loss at Boston.

He's 0-5 with a 6.23 ERA on the road in his career.

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