New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays series primer

Their pitching stretched thin, the Tampa Bay Rays need their bats to come alive during a four-game series with the New York Yankees.

Tampa Rays second basemen Ben Zobrist hit safely in four games from April 12-16 and went a combined 2 for 6 in two games against the Baltimore Orioles.

Peter Aiken / USA TODAY Sports

Wanted: Offense.

It's needed now. It's needed for a long stretch into the future.

Not much went right for the Tampa Bay Rays in their eight-game road trip to Kansas City, Cincinnati and Baltimore. They went 3-5. Left-hander Matt Moore and right-hander Alex Cobb joined right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on the disabled list. There's a feeling of, "Everyone knows the season is a marathon, but the Rays have reason to worry with these early injuries."

An anemic offense is reason for concern too. Tampa Bay is built on pitching and defense, which makes this problem awkward. Moore will be out about a year. Who knows when Cobb will return? Hellickson hopes to be re-inserted into the rotation sometime in June, though no one knows which Hellickson will be back. Meanwhile, the Rays scored more than three runs once on the road trip, in a 12-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. They scored no more than two in their victories.

Not many games can be won like that. Not many games can be won when a strained pitching staff has little-or-no margin for error.

So the bats must wake up. That means Evan Longoria. That means Wil Myers. That means Ben Zobrist. That means anyone who has shown capable vision at the plate must provide a spark someway, somehow, soon.

The stats aren't pretty. The Rays rank 26th in the majors in runs scored with 45. They are tied for 26th in the majors in hits with the Minnesota Twins with 107. They have been shut out three times, matching the 2001 team for the most through the opening 15 games of the season. That's not good.

The New York Yankees are the next test. They have won four consecutive games since last Saturday, two over the Boston Red Sox and two over the Chicago Cubs. They didn't allow a run against Chicago. This will be tough.

Somehow, the Rays' offense must come alive.

Here's a look at the upcoming Rays-Yankees series:

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHERS

April 17 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
CC Sabathia (1-2, 6.63 ERA) vs. David Price (2-0, 2.91 ERA)

April 18 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

April 19 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50 ERA)

April 20 (Sun Sports -- pregame coverage begins at 1:00 p.m.)
TBA vs. Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50 ERA)

WHO'S HOT

Carlos Beltran (New York Yankees): He hit .409 with three home runs and five RBI in six games from April 10-16. He has hit safely in all but two games this season. He has hit .327 with four home runs and nine RBI for the year.

Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays): Not much has gone right for Tampa Bay's offense, but he has enjoyed a notable run of late. He hit safely in four games from April 12-16. He went a combined 2 for 6 in two games against the Baltimore Orioles.

WHO'S NOT

Dean Anna (New York Yankees): He hit .167 in five games from April 10-16. He has hit .158 with one home run and two RBI for the season. He has yet to produce a multi-hit game.

Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays): He went 0 for 7 in two games against Baltimore, dropping his average to .200. He has gone hitless in six games this season. He has produced four RBI, but he remains homerless.

STORYLINES

12: Number of pitchers on a major league roster to have Tommy John surgery since the beginning of spring training. Moore would be the 13th.

39: Temperature, in degrees, at the start of the Rays-Orioles game Wednesday at Camden Yards. Rays players were seen wearing long sleeves and stocking caps.

42: Number worn by all players Wednesday at Camden Yards for Jackie Robinson. Each April 15, Major League Baseball honors Robinson's legacy. Since Tuesday's game was rained out, Rays and Orioles players paid tribute Wednesday.

QUOTE BOARD

"I can't help out on the competitive side of this business right now. This is my first significant injury where I'm going to be missing a lot of time." -- Moore, to reporters, when addressing his decision Tuesday to have Tommy John ligament replacement surgery next week. Moore is expected to be out about a year after the tear in his ulnar-collateral ligament is repaired.

"If the weather was perfect, I was all for playing that game, there's no question. I'd much rather not have a rainout regardless of how banged up you are. Even last night, looking at the weather in advance, we thought we could use more bullpen because there was a pretty good chance of this game not being played today. All those things were considered." -- Rays manager Joe Maddon, to reporters, after the postponement of the second game of the Rays-Orioles series Tuesday at Camden Yards. No makeup date has been set.

"We faced 153 pitches today and didn't score a run. That's difficult to do. Our at-bats have been good. The results haven't been." -- Maddon, to reporters, after the Rays' 3-0 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday at Camden Yards. Tampa Bay scored one or fewer runs four times on its road trip.

GIVEAWAYS

April 18 -- Tampa Bay Times Ticket Tandem Evan Longoria T-shirt

April 20 --€“ Joe Maddon Hoodie Drawstring Bag

LOOKING AHEAD

April 22-24 -- Twins at Rays

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.