The Rays will send Alex Cobb to the mound in Sunday's series finale hoping the right-hander can continue his stellar pitching at home and help avoid a sweep.
Thursday's off day, however, allowed Tampa Bay to push him to Monday versus Miami and start Cobb against the far more formidable Yankees (30-18).
Given Cobb's recent performances and history against New York, the decision seems like an easy one.
Cobb (5-2, 2.73 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA in five home starts this season, including a 3-0 win over the Yankees on April 24. He allowed three hits in 8 1-3 innings with one walk and seven strikeouts, giving him a 2-1 mark and 2.22 ERA in four starts against them.
"It's nice to be given the opportunity for sure," Cobb told the team's official website. "And they're so big on matchups, that I'm sure their computer spit out something that they like to see. So I'll take it."
He turned in his seventh quality start this season Tuesday at Toronto, yielding one run and three hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-3 win.
Robinson Cano is 2 for 12 against Cobb, but both hits are home runs.
The Rays (24-24) appeared headed for a win Saturday before struggling closer Fernando Rodney allowed two runs in the ninth for his third consecutive blown save. Lyle Overbay then connected for a solo homer in the 11th inning, sending Tampa Bay to its third straight loss and fourth in a row at home."This has been really awkward to watch," manager Joe Maddon said of Rodney. "He's been within one pitch of almost being perfect this season. Three of the blown saves have come down to the last pitch. I've not lost any patience with it. As long as he doesn't lose confidence in himself, I will not lose confidence in him."
Rodney isn't the only member of the Tampa Bay bullpen that's slumping. That group has posted a 6.94 ERA during the three-game skid, allowing 12 hits and seven walks in 11 2-3 innings.
The AL East-leading Yankees have taken the first two games of this series after losing 13 of 16 at Tropicana Field. CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.43) will try to pitch New York to its first three-game sweep there since Sept. 13-15, 2005.
The left-hander, however, has gone 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts. Although he's been able to minimize the damage, Sabathia has allowed 21 hits over 12 2-3 innings in his past two outings.
He gave up four runs and 11 hits in 6 1-3 innings at Baltimore on Monday and was in line for the loss before the Yankees rallied for a 6-4, 10-inning victory.
Sabathia's recent struggles against the Rays continued with a 5-1 road defeat April 22, when he was reached for five runs and a season-high three homers over seven innings. He is 0-3 with a 4.55 ERA in his past four matchups with Tampa Bay.
Evan Longoria has been a particularly difficult matchup, with the slugger batting .366 with five homers, three doubles and 11 walks against Sabathia.
|New York Yankees|
|May 25, 2013||Curtis Granderson||15-Day DL||Broken left pinkie finger|
|May 24, 2013||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - Broken left pinkie finger|
|May 24, 2013||David Phelps||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right arm injury|
|May 17, 2013||Andy Pettitte||15-Day DL||Strained left trapezius muscle|
|May 16, 2013||Andy Pettitte||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight left trapezius|
|May 16, 2013||Chris Stewart||Day-to-Day||Left groin injury|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 15, 2013||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left tricep tightness|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|May 04, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Alex Cobb likes pitching against top teams, such as the New York Yankees .
Cobb took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning and led the Tampa Bay Rays to an 8-3 win Sunday that extended CC Sabathia's winless streak to five, one short of his career high.
"These big games, I love to have them," Cobb said. "They really make me focus in a lot more."
Cobb (6-2) lost his shutout bid when Brett Gardner homered leading off the ninth and he wound up allowing two runs and five hits in 8 1-3 innings with eight strikeouts.
"The young man knows how to pitch," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's got one of the best changes, split -change, whatever you want to call it in the game."
Cesar Ramos followed Cobb and walked his first two batters and allowed David Adams ' two-run double. Joel Peralta struck out Ichiro Suzuki and Jayson Nix .
Nix reached on an infield single in the third, when replays showed he appeared to be out. He was New York's only runner until Robinson Cano grounded a single to center leading off the seventh.
Cobb allowed three hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory over Andy Pettitte on April 24.
"He was wonderful," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He was that good."
Sabathia (4-4) dropped to 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA since he beat Toronto on April 27. He allowed seven runs and seven hits in seven innings and is 10-11 in 31 starts against the Rays, including a 3-10 mark since joining the Yankees. His overall ERA is 3.96.
"I'm hurting the team," Sabathia said. "Not being able to make pitches with two strikes, fastball command. I feel fine. It's just one of those things where I feel like the ball is coming out pretty good, but I'm just not making pitches."
Sabathia's career-high streak for consecutive winless starts is six, from July 3-Aug. 1, 2002, and March 31-April 27, 2003, according to STATS.
"He's missing some pitches and he's not getting away with it," Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. "Every mistake he made, they hit it. Early in the season, he had the same velocity and pitched really well. He was just executing pitches better."
Sean Rodriguez and James Loney hit two-run homers for the Rays.
"You put up eight runs against the Yankees, definitely something good, but the `W' is all that matters," Rodriguez said.
New York, which won the first two games of the series, came up short in the bid for its first sweep of three or more games at Tropicana Field since Sept. 13-15, 2005.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the second after Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, Adams made a high throw to second when he tried for a forceout on Yunel Escobar 's grounder to third and Escobar beat first baseman Lyle Overbay 's throw to second on Loney's grounder, a play in which Sabathia failed to cover first. Jose Lobaton hit a broken-bat RBI single to center and Sam Fuld followed with a sacrifice fly.
Rodriguez homered in the third for a 4-0 lead. His only other home run this year was April 24 off Pettitte.
Escobar hit an RBI double in the sixth and scored on Loney's homer. Desmond Jennings added an eighth inning RBI double.
NOTES: Sabathia is 3-7 in 16 starts at Tropicana Field, which is his lowest winning percentage in any current major league ballpark. ... The Yankees are at the New York Mets on Monday, which marks the start of closer Mariano Rivera 's final regular season Subway Series. "We've played a lot of good games at our place and good games at their place," said Rivera, who says he is retiring after the season. ... Tampa Bay RHP Jake Odorizzi (0-0) will make his second start in place of injured Cy Young Award winner David Price (left triceps strain) Monday against Miami.