Yankees-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

Though it's only May, the Tampa Bay Rays don't feel it's too early to shuffle their rotation to get a more favorable matchup against the New York Yankees.

The Rays will send Alex Cobb to the mound in Sunday's series finale hoping the right-hander can continue his stellar pitching at home and help avoid a sweep.

This would have been David Price's turn in the rotation but he went on the disabled list May 16. Rookie Jake Odorizzi took his spot Monday at Toronto and his next turn would've come in this game.

Thursday's off day, however, allowed Tampa Bay to push him to Monday versus Miami and start Cobb against the far more formidable Yankees (30-18).

Given Cobb's recent performances and history against New York, the decision seems like an easy one.

Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five home starts this season, including a 3-0 win over the Yankees on April 24. He allowed three hits in 8 1-3 innings with one walk and seven strikeouts, giving him a 2-1 mark and 2.22 ERA in four starts against them.

"It's nice to be given the opportunity for sure," Cobb told the team's official website. "And they're so big on matchups, that I'm sure their computer spit out something that they like to see. So I'll take it."

He turned in his seventh quality start this season Tuesday at Toronto, yielding one run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-3 win.

Robinson Cano is 2 for 12 against Cobb, but both hits are home runs.

The Rays (24-24) appeared headed for a win Saturday before struggling closer Fernando Rodney allowed two runs in the ninth for his third consecutive blown save. Lyle Overbay then connected for a solo homer in the 11th inning, sending Tampa Bay to its third straight loss and fourth in a row at home.

''This has been really awkward to watch,'' manager Joe Maddon said of Rodney. ''He's been within one pitch of almost being perfect this season. Three of the blown saves have come down to the last pitch. I've not lost any patience with it. As long as he doesn't lose confidence in himself, I will not lose confidence in him.''

Rodney isn't the only member of the Tampa Bay bullpen that's slumping. That group has posted a 6.94 ERA during the three-game skid, allowing 12 hits and seven walks in 11 2-3 innings.

The AL East-leading Yankees have taken the first two games of this series after losing 13 of 16 at Tropicana Field. CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.43) will try to pitch New York to its first three-game sweep there since Sept. 13-15, 2005.

The left-hander, however, has gone 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts. Although he's been able to minimize the damage, Sabathia has allowed 21 hits over 12 2-3 innings in his past two outings.

He gave up four runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings at Baltimore on Monday and was in line for the loss before the Yankees rallied for a 6-4, 10-inning victory.

Sabathia's recent struggles against the Rays continued with a 5-1 road defeat April 22, when he was reached for five runs and a season-high three homers over seven innings. He is 0-3 with a 4.55 ERA in his past four matchups with Tampa Bay.

Evan Longoria has been a particularly difficult matchup, with the slugger batting .366 with five homers, three doubles and 11 walks against Sabathia.

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