Yankees-Rays Preview

While Ivan Nova has been one of the New York Yankees’ most

consistent starters of late, Alex Cobb has pitched extremely well

since returning from a frightening injury for the Tampa Bay

Rays.

The talented right-handers square off Sunday when the Rays try

to complete a three-game home sweep of the Yankees.

New York (68-61) came into the set winners of five straight and

10 of 12, but managed four runs and 11 hits through the first two.

After David Price outpitched CC Sabathia in Saturday’s 4-2 loss,

the Yankees are seven games back and in fourth place in the AL East

and 4 1/2 behind Oakland – with Cleveland and Baltimore in between

– in the race for the final wild-card spot.

“It’s not what you want, but you’ve got to turn it around

(Sunday),” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can’t let this carry

over.”

Tampa Bay (74-53), which leads the East by percentage points

over Boston, has won eight of 10 overall and 20 of 25 at Tropicana

Field.

“Our guys believed we were going to win (Saturday),” manager Joe

Maddon said. “Not in a cocky way, just in a very confident way.

“When you get to that point in the year and you get that vibe

among your group, it’s kind of a good thing.”

Cobb (8-2, 2.85 ERA) looks to help the Rays sweep a home series

from New York for a third straight season.

He has allowed two earned runs, six hits and overcome six walks

in 11 innings to win both starts since he missed two months after

being hit in the head by a line drive June 15. Cobb walked four but

gave up one of those earned runs and three hits in six innings of a

7-4 victory at Baltimore on Tuesday.

“Physically, he is (OK),” Maddon told the team’s official

website. “Mentally and emotionally, I think he is. I don’t see any

after-effects from what happened. He’s throwing the ball really

well. The ball has been alive.”

He has a 1.52 ERA while winning three straight starts against

Yankees, including a pair at home this season in which he’s yielded

two runs, eight hits and struck out 15 over 16 2-3 innings.

Nova (7-4, 3.17), meanwhile, is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in eight

starts since the beginning of July. However, he hopes for a better

effort after matching a season high by allowing four runs and nine

hits in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-4 victory over Toronto on

Tuesday.

Though Nova has lost both previous 2013 starts versus Tampa Bay,

he’s posted a 2.63 ERA while the Yankees have been outscored

4-1.

Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria is 5 for 22 with a home run versus

Nova, but had three hits Saturday and matched a career high by

homering in three straight home games for the second time this

season.

Longoria, who delivered a tiebreaking single in the sixth, is 12

for 26 with four home runs and five doubles in his last seven home

contests.

Mark Reynolds had two hits Saturday for the Yankees after going

0 for 12 in the previous five games. He’s 0 for 5 with three

strikeouts versus Cobb.

Teammate Alfonso Soriano is 2 for 27 over the last seven

contests following a five-game stretch where he went 15 for 22 with

five homers and 18 RBIs.