Yankees-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The New York Yankees are seeking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1998, although that season turned out just fine.

The Tampa Bay Rays, meanwhile, have started with three wins just once in franchise history.

The Rays have won five straight at home against the Yankees for the first time heading into Sunday's finale of this opening series.

New York has gotten poor starts from CC Sabathia and newcomer Hiroki Kuroda to drop two high-scoring games, 7-6 on Friday and 8-6 on Saturday. The Yankees have lost their first two for the first time in three years, and last went 0-3 in 1998 when they went 114-48 and won the first of three straight World Series.

Sabathia allowed five runs over six innings while Kuroda had a rough Yankees debut, yielding six over 5 2-3.

"We're two games in right now. It hasn't really gone the way we would have liked for it to. But, hey, that's the name of the game,'' New York's Nick Swisher said. "We just got to keep battling, keep fighting, stick together as a team because we're going to do a lot of special things."

The Rays, whose only 3-0 start came in 2002, have displayed plenty of firepower. Carlos Pena has six RBIs in this series and Matt Joyce and Luke Scott came up with their first three of the year Saturday.

"That's what we talked about. We needed or wanted to see some significant power adjustment,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Power is also driving in runs. It's not just hitting home runs. These guys have done a nice job.''

The Rays' 15 runs have matched St. Louis for the most by any team through two games. Scott and Evan Longoria each have .667 on-base percentages, combining to go 7 for 12.

New York manager Joe Girardi has expressed a desire to give his veterans some time off from the field. Derek Jeter was 2 for 5 as the designated hitter Saturday and Girardi said Alex Rodriguez could DH or even sit Sunday.

Phil Hughes will get the ball for New York after he went 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA in an injury-plagued 2011. He turned in a better spring, registering a 1.56 ERA over 17 1-3 innings as his velocity has been improved.

"I just came in and wanted to throw the ball well," Hughes told the Yankees' official website. "I didn't want to think any further into it; I just wanted to make some tough decisions for these guys. I felt like I threw the ball well enough to be here, and that's really all I wanted to do."

The right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.21 ERA in six career starts against the Rays. Scott has given him the most trouble among the Tampa Bay hitters, going 8 for 15 with three doubles.

The Rays, meanwhile, are hoping that right-handed Sunday starter Jeremy Hellickson will fare better than his 9.00 ERA over 20 innings in spring training this year. He went 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA while finishing third on team with 189 innings to earn 2011 AL rookie of the year honors.

Hellickson is 1-1 with a 4.07 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. Robinson Cano is 5 for 11 with two homers against him.

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