The Tampa Bay Rays are enjoying their longest win streak in over two months while the New York Yankees are on the brink of elimination.
A sixth straight win for the visiting Rays would officially end the Yankees' postseason hopes Wednesday night when these AL East rivals continue a three-game set.
Tampa Bay (88-69) cruised to a 7-0 victory in Tuesday's opener to maintain its one-game lead over Cleveland for the AL's top wild-card. The Rays have a magic number of four to reach the playoffs.
New York (82-75), which has dropped seven of 10, will be eliminated with one more loss or one more victory by the Indians. The Yankees have made the postseason 17 times in the previous 18 years.
The Rays are dealing with a number of injuries, with shortstop Yunel Escobar and catcher Jose Lobaton exiting Tuesday.
Escobar was lifted with a sore left ankle and Lobaton has a bruised right elbow. Both are day to day.
In addition, Desmond Jennings has missed the last two games with a tight left hamstring. There is no word on when he will return.
Tampa Bay's pitchers have posted a 1.67 ERA during the five-game streak, its longest since a six-game run July 13-22.
David Price (8-5, 3.43 ERA) will look to continue that trend and earn his first victory this month. He's 0-3 with a 4.05 ERA in his last five outings, allowing two runs in five innings Friday in a 5-4, 18-inning win over Baltimore.
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this year - both at home. He's 4-1 with a 3.79 ERA in his last six outings in the Bronx.
The Yankees went hitless in 10 at_bats with runners in scoring position Tuesday as they were limited to four hits by Matt Moore and two relievers.
"This is not a good feeling," manager Joe Girardi said. "It hurts."
New York could be hard-pressed to generate offense Wednesday. Robinson Cano is a .259 hitter against Price, Curtis Granderson is 9 for 48 (.188) with 20 strikeouts and Alex Rodriguez is 10 for 40 (.250) with 15 strikeouts. Vernon Wells is also batting .188 versus the lefty.
Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07) will start for New York in place of CC Sabathia, who won't pitch again in 2013 due to a left hamstring strain.
Hughes is 0-6 with a 5.33 ERA in his last 12 starts. In his last two outings, he pitched three innings Sept. 12 at Baltimore and lasted 3 1-3 last Wednesday at Toronto, with left-hander David Huff replacing him both times. Huff took Hughes' place in the rotation Sept. 7 against Boston.
The Yankees have won both of Hughes' 2013 outings against the Rays, with the right-hander posting a 5.73 ERA and failing to receive either decision.
In Hughes' last start against Tampa Bay on July 28, Wil Myers homered twice off him. Matt Joyce is 6 for 14 with two homers in his career against Hughes.
Joyce ended a 23-game homerless drought by going deep to lead off the game Tuesday against Hiroki Kuroda. David DeJesus and James Loney each added two RBIs.
"You set the tone right from the start,' Joyce said. "Obviously Wil and David coming up behind me and not just settling for a couple of runs."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved