There should be a playoff atmosphere at Yankee Stadium on Friday when CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees welcome David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays to the Bronx for the start of an important three-game set.
New York enters this series tied atop the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, who swept a three-game series from the Rays on Thursday, taking the finale from Tampa Bay, 3-2, in 14 innings.
The Rays, who are now four games back in both the division and the final wild card spot, are just 4-for-37 with runners in scoring position in their last six games and have lost 13 of their previous 16 games decided by one run.
"It's just the same old story: We can't score enough runs," said Tampa manager Joe Maddon.
On Friday, though, the Rays welcome back AL Cy Young Award candidate Price, who had his last start skipped due a sore shoulder. Price has been simply magnificent this season, going 17-5 with a 2.54 ERA.
"The biggest stage in baseball is in Yankee Stadium, facing their ace CC Sabathia, which I've done many times," Price said. "So, it should be a good game, it should be fun. Hopefully we come out with a win."
Price hasn't started since beating the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept, 2 when he allowed two runs and six hits with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
"I don't think there's any limitations to what I can do," Price said. "So I'm just looking to go out there and give us a chance to win."
Price is 6-3 in 17 games (16 starts) versus the Yankees with a 3.84 ERA.
Sabathia, meanwhile, has struggled of late, losing his last two decisions with the Yankees and dropping his last three starts, all of which he has had the lead in.
That was the case on Saturday in Baltimore, as he allowed five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, dropping him to 13-5 to go along with a 3.56 ERA.
New York got a big effort from Phil Hughes on Thursday, as the righty fired 7 1/3 scoreless frames to help the Yankees blank the Boston Red Sox, 2-0.
"We needed distance because I didn't know what we were gonna have and I didn't want to ask some of the guys to go full innings and (Hughes) did that for us," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Boone Logan and David Robertson combined to shut the Sox down in the eighth before Rafael Soriano tossed a scoreless ninth to nail down his 38th save of the season.
Derek Jeter and Andruw Jones each plated a run for the Yankees, who have won three of four.
"All we can do is control how we play," said Jeter, who tied Willie Mays for 10th on the all-time hits list with his 3,283rd. "We know we have enough games left to where once again we have to win our games. That's the bottom line."
Tampa has won nine of its 15 meetings with the Yankees this season, but is just 2-4 in the Bronx.