Yankees-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

After feeling fine following his most recent outing, Andy Pettitte will try to win his first four starts for the first time during a successful and lengthy major league career.

The New York Yankees left-hander hopes to achieve that feat while continuing his success against the Tampa Bay Rays in Wednesday night's decisive series finale.

Pettitte (3-0, 2.01 ERA) has started 4-0 twice in his previous 17 seasons (1997, 2010), but never through the first four starts. He's in position to do so after allowing three runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 9-4 win at Toronto on Friday.

"Andy is remarkable,'' teammate Vernon Wells said of Pettitte, who turns 41 in June. "I've had a chance to see him for a long time and he's the same guy he was 10, 12 years ago. It's fun to watch and it's a pleasure to watch an individual that's been around this long and still continues to have success.''

Pettitte had missed his previous turn in the rotation due to back spasms, but manager Joe Girardi said Pettitte felt fine after beating the Blue Jays.

"Normal soreness, so everything is OK," Girardi told the Yankees' official website Saturday. "You want to see how the back responds after the workload, and it came out OK, so I'm pleased."

Pettitte dominated the Rays (9-11) in his lone chance last season, allowing two hits and striking out 10 over 7 1-3 innings in a 7-0 home win June 5.

He'll look to help the Yankees (11-8) win this series after a 4-3 victory on Tuesday. Ichiro Suzuki had two hits, including a go-ahead two-run single in the ninth as New York improved to 3-2 on a six-game trip.

"I haven't been able to do much, but hopefully things like this will help me get past it,'' said the 39-year-old Suzuki, who is hitting .220 with a homer and five RBIs.

Robinson Cano added two hits, and is batting .423 (11 for 26) in the last six games. He's batted .387 (12 for 31) in his last eight at Tropicana Field.

Both hits in nine at-bats against scheduled Rays starter Alex Cobb (2-1, 2.53) have been home runs.

The right-hander allowed three runs and overcame 10 hits to last 7 1-3 innings for an 8-3 win over Oakland on Friday.

"He was more workmanlike (Friday), and that's a great thing," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website.

He is 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay's four-game winning streak ended Tuesday, but Maddon again plans to keep things lose in the clubhouse Wednesday as he did through the first five games of the homestand. He had a DJ play music, a magician do card tricks and Tuesday a cockatoo made an appearance.

"Snakes are out,'' Maddon said. "I will not be in the clubhouse with a snake. Regardless of what people say, I'm not on board with that.''

Teammate Evan Longoria has reached base in all 20 games after homering Tuesday. Half of his 10 hits in 39 at-bats during a 10-game hitting streak have left the park.

He is 2 for 18 with a double and a home run versus Pettitte.

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