The New York Yankees look to continue their dominance in the season series and keep hopes alive for an American League East title when they go for a three-game sweep of the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night. The Yankees got a solid pitching performance and three home runs to knock off the Rays 6-1 on Wednesday, improving to 12-6 against them in 2017, and remain three games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
New York recorded 33 runs in its last five contests and has won 18 of its last 24 while improving to a season-high 20 games over .500 at 89-69, with Aaron Judge playing a big role with 13 homers and 28 RBIs during that stretch. Judge will try to extend his hitting streak to 11 games Thursday as Sonny Gray takes the mound for his final regular-season start and Tampa Bay counters with rookie Jacob Faria. The Rays were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday and have dropped three in a row to assure they will finish under .500 for the fourth consecutive season. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria is 0-for-11 in the last three games as he stands one homer shy of becoming the second third baseman in major league history to reach 20 for the ninth time in his first 10 seasons.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), YES (New York)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.33 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Sonny Gray (10-11, 3.31)
Faria, who missed a month with an abdominal strain, makes his first start since Aug. 16 with Alex Cobb scratched due to workload issues. The 24-year-old Californian allowed two runs over five innings in two relief appearances since being activated and is winless in his last six outings overall. Faria had a no-decision in his lone appearance against the Yankees when he yielded three runs on three hits over four innings on July 30.
Gray has pitched far better than his record (4-6) since being acquired by the Yankees, and his outing against Tampa Bay on Sept. 10 is an example as he gave up two runs over eight innings in a loss. The 27-year-old Vanderbilt product (3.12 ERA with New York) has struggled with the home run ball a bit lately, permitting eight blasts in his last six starts. Longoria is 10-for-29 with a homer versus Gray, who is 3-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay.
1. Tampa Bay SS Adeiny Hechavarria, who has not committed an error in 49 straight games, has a homer and four RBIs in his last five contests.
2. New York 2B Starlin Castro, who homered in each of the last two contests, is 7-for-14 during a four-game hitting streak.
3. Rays C Wilson Ramos was rested Wednesday, but has gone 8-for-14 over his last four games and boasts 13 RBIs in 11 contests.
PREDICTION: Yankees 6, Rays 2