Rays to try to take bite out of Yankees' lead

Field Level Media

For the next four nights, the Tampa Bay Rays can directly control their deficit to the New York Yankees.

The Rays hope to start tightening the American League East race Monday night when they visit the Yankees for the start of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium between the top two teams in the division.

The Yankees lead the season series 9-4. They won six straight before Tampa Bay claimed a pair of one-run victories at home right before the All-Star break.

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Tampa Bay heads to New York six games behind the Yankees, who have played four fewer games. The Rays are 5-1 in their last six games and scored 33 runs in taking three of four at Baltimore.

Tampa Bay scored 16 runs in the first game in Baltimore, 12 in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader and then ended the series with a 4-1 win Sunday when they came within three outs of the first combined perfect game in baseball history.

"It hurts a little bit knowing it had never been done before," Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino said. "But it's something that we're going to be talking about for a long time."

When the Rays exit the Bronx for the final time this season Thursday, they hope to be talking about a successful trip, especially after allowing 34 runs in losing their previous four games in New York.

They will encounter an opponent with 18 wins in their last 23 games but also one that has scored four runs or less in a season-high five consecutive games. The Yankees improved to 12-0-1 in their last 13 home series Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Toronto.

"That group in there is capable of being the best team in baseball, the best team in the world," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after his team won for the 11th time in 13 games at home.

New York enters with two other streaks on the line.

The Yankees have won their last 14 series openers against the Rays at home and have gone 173 straight games without being shut out. That is one shy of the fourth-longest streak in baseball since 1900.

James Paxton (5-4, 4.01 ERA) will start on seven days of rest Monday and oppose Tampa Bay for the second straight time. He last pitched on July 7 in Tampa Bay when he took the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits in six innings while striking out 11.

Paxton is 2-2 with a 4.89 ERA in eight starts since returning from left knee inflammation on May 29. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay.

Blake Snell (5-7, 4.70) will oppose the Yankees for the fifth time this season. He is 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA against the Yankees this year, including a June 19 outing in New York in which he allowed six runs and was lifted after getting one out and throwing 39 pitches in a 12-1 loss.

Snell has been better in his past two starts, allowing a total of three runs in 11 innings in those outings. He last pitched July 6 against the Yankees when he allowed a run on five hits in five innings in a no-decision.

Snell is 3-6 with a 4.62 ERA in 15 career starts against the Yankees, and he is 1-5 with a 6.34 ERA in 10 starts in at Yankee Stadium.

--Field Level Media

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