Rays-Yankees Preview

The New York Yankees appear to have righted themselves after a

rough stretch. The Tampa Bay Rays are still stuck in theirs.

This key four-game series continues Wednesday night in the Bronx

as the Yankees try to extend their AL East lead against the

slumping Rays.

Curtis Granderson had two home runs to lead the Yankees to an

8-6 win in Monday’s series opener, and Nick Swisher’s homer sparked

a five-run first inning in New York’s 8-3 victory Tuesday

night.

Those wins have given the Yankees (92-59) a 2 1/2-game lead in

the East as they chase a second straight division title. New York

has six games left with rival Boston and three with Toronto after

this series. Tampa Bay has a much easier remaining schedule with

series left against Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City – the three

worst teams in the AL.

”I think we all pretty much know what’s at stake,” Swisher

said. “Take the Rays and us and line us up, and let’s see what

happens.

”Getting kind of chilly out there, smells like playoff

baseball,” he added.

The Yankees have won four of five after a 2-8 stretch dropped

them one-half game behind the Rays in the East. Tampa Bay (89-61),

meanwhile, has lost three in a row and 10 of 16, but still owns a 6

1/2-game lead over Boston in the wild-card race.

A loss Wednesday would assure the Rays of losing the season

series at New York for the 11th time in 13 years. They are 1-10-1

all-time in road season series against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay’s starting pitcher struggled again Tuesday, as James

Shields allowed five runs over 5 1-3 innings. Rays starters are 4-6

with a 5.47 ERA this month.

“First inning, I made two or three bad pitches,” Shields said.

”You let five runs in the first inning, that’s definitely not

doing my job. With this team, you definitely can’t do that.”

Wade Davis (12-9, 4.19 ERA) will try to reverse that trend when

he takes the mound for Tampa Bay. Davis is 7-0 with a 3.62 ERA in

his last 11 outings, recording quality starts seven times during

that span. He did not receive a decision in a 4-3 loss to the

Angels on Friday, allowing three runs and seven hits in six

innings.

The right-hander beat the Yankees for the second straight time

July 30, limiting them to two runs and four hits over seven innings

in a 3-2 victory. He is 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA lifetime against New

York.

Alex Rodriguez is 4 for 11 with two homers off Davis.

A.J. Burnett (10-13, 5.08) has been the weakest link in New

York’s rotation lately, but is coming off his best start in over a

month. He limited Baltimore to three runs and six hits over seven

innings Friday before leaving without a decision in a 4-3

victory.

That was a huge improvement after Burnett went 1-3 with a 7.57

ERA in his previous five starts.

“This is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time tonight, as

far as overall everything. … Every time out, they’re not giant

steps but they’re steps forward,” Burnett said.

Burnett stretched his personal win streak against the Rays to

six with a strong showing April 11, but he is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA

in the past two meetings. He is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 24 starts

versus Tampa Bay.

Evan Longoria is 12 for 31 (.387) with a homer against

Burnett.