Rays-Yankees Preview

While left-handers David Price and CC Sabathia rank among the

better pitchers in the game, this enticing matchup has proved to be

a one-sided affair.

With Price looking to improve to 4-0 against Sabathia, the Tampa

Bay Rays seek a ninth win in 10 meetings with the New York Yankees

as the teams conclude their three-game set Thursday night.

New York (16-14), which snapped a seven-game losing streak to

Tampa Bay with Tuesday’s 5-3 win, saw its struggles in this series

resume with a 4-1 loss Wednesday. The Rays (20-11) were held

scoreless before Matt Joyce’s three-run homer off closer David

Robertson capped a furious four-run rally in the ninth.

“It’s always great to come up with a big hit like that,

especially against the Yankees,” said Joyce, who rolled his left

ankle while snapping Tampa Bay’s 0-for-20 drought with runners in

scoring position.

Filling in for the injured Mariano Rivera, Robertson – who

earned his first save after getting out of a bases-loaded jam

Tuesday – hadn’t allowed a run in his previous 26 regular-season

appearances dating to September.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” Robertson said. “You

watch when Mo does it, he comes back the next day and he’s the same

guy. He goes right back out there, takes the mound and does his

thing. I’m going to have to do that (Thursday).”

Runs could be at a premium with Sabathia (4-0, 4.15 ERA) and

Price (5-1, 2.35) squaring off.

The 26-year-old Price has outdueled Sabathia in five previous

matchups, going 3-0 while compiling a 1.56 ERA, and the Rays have

won all five of those games.

Price improved to 5-2 with a 3.96 ERA lifetime against the

Yankees with 6 1-3 innings of two-run ball during an 8-6 win April

7.

On the verge of winning a career-best fifth consecutive start,

Price was sensational his last time out, allowing one run, three

hits and striking out a season-best 12 over eight innings of

Friday’s 7-2 win over Oakland.

“I feel like this was the best fastball command I’ve had all

year,” he told the team’s official website. “Hopefully, it

continues to get better.”

“Right now, I feel good taking that ball every fifth day. I like

where I’m at personally … it’s starting to roll pretty good right

now.”

Price went 19-6 in 2010 before taking what appeared to be a step

back last season, when he posted a 12-13 record.

“I think his confidence is reemerging,” manager Joe Maddon said.

“We’ve always had confidence in him, but you have to have

confidence in yourself. So the confidence is reemerging. … You

combine confidence with that kind of skill level – heads up.”

Sabathia also enters this game riding a four-start winning

streak after surrendering a pair of runs and scattering seven hits

over eight innings in Friday’s 6-2 victory at Kansas City.

“I (was) sitting over there during the course of the game,

trying to figure out a better left-hander in the game today,”

Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I couldn’t come up with one.”

Sabathia, who’s recorded a 2.46 ERA in going 8-1 over his last

11 starts at Yankee Stadium, is just 1-4 with a 3.72 ERA during his

last nine games against the Rays. He was tagged for a season-worst

five runs over six innings of a 7-6 season-opening, walk-off loss

at Tampa Bay on April 6.

Carlos Pena can’t be looking forward to facing Sabathia, against

whom he’s gone 5 for 38 (.132) with 21 strikeouts. The 2007 AL Cy

Young Award winner won’t have to worry about facing injured Evan

Longoria, who is 13 for 33 with five homers against him.

Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are each 7 for 34 against

Price, with Granderson taking him deep twice.