Rays-Yankees Preview - NBC Sports

Rays-Yankees Preview
July 4, 2015, 1:47 am

Up until their series-opening victory over Tampa Bay, the New York Yankees hadn't been alone in first place as late as July since winning the AL East in 2012.

Remaining there entering the second half of the season could require another home win Saturday, something the Rays have been handing out daily as of late.

New York (43-37) came back from a pair of multirun deficits in Friday's 7-5 win with Mark Teixeira tying the game in the eighth inning on a three-run homer before Brian McCann connected for a three-run walk-off shot in a four-run 12th.

Teixeira was 2 for 5 with four RBIs to break out of a 2-for-24 slump, but all of that came on the road. He's 11 for 30 in his last eight at Yankee Stadium.

Alex Rodriguez and Chase Headley have followed that trend. Rodriguez is 16 for 36 on a 10-game home hitting streak after a 4-for-23 road trip, while Headley has a 13-for-37 mark in eight at home after a 5-for-27 trip.

In all, the Yankees are scoring 7.2 runs per game and batting .319 on a 13-4 run at home as opposed to 2.9 and .223 marks during a 9-18 road stretch.

They're chasing a 13th win in 20 tries against the Rays (42-40), who have dropped six straight for the second time and 10 of 12 since moving 10 games over .500 on June 20.

Grady Sizemore is 9 for 22 on the slide, but Steven Souza Jr. is 0 for 24 in nine games. The rookie will be back in the lineup after pinch-hitting in the last two contests.

Tampa will try to turn things around against Michael Pineda, who matched the longest start of his career with an eight-inning complete game in Sunday's 3-1 loss in Houston.

Two of the runs were earned and Pineda (8-5, 4.08 ERA) gave up seven hits with eight strikeouts and no walks, but he's got more work to do to recover from an eight-start span in which he's gone 3-5 with a 5.44 ERA.

"I thought he had good stuff from the beginning," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought all three pitches were effective today and it's unfortunate because he pitched a really good game. Most days we're going to score more runs than that and he's going to win."

Souza (3 for 6 with a home run) and James Loney (4 for 9) have hit him well, but Evan Longoria is 1 for 17.

Nathan Karns (4-4, 3.26) hasn't pitched more than six innings in any of his last nine starts, but he's kept the Rays in most of them. The right-hander, who is 1-1 with a 1.54 ERA in his last four starts, gave up two runs and nine hits in six innings of Monday's 7-1 home loss to Cleveland.

His previous two opponents have taken perfect games through at least 6 1-3 innings, and he's received two runs of support in 29 innings over his last five outings. Karns is focusing on what he can control, and right now that happens to be an improved changeup.

"I have a good feel for it and I'm excited that I'm finally clicking with three pitches," Karns told MLB's official website. "... I'm getting the results I want out of a changeup. Whereas previously, it was just more of a slower pitch, a lateral movement. Now I'm getting two-plane break, down and away. ... The best thing about it, it looks like a fastball out of my hand."

On the road, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and .173 opponent batting average in five starts. He's faced the Yankees three times, all this year, and is 1-0 with a 3.07 ERA.

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