David Price will shoot for his first win in 2013 as the Tampa Bay Rays continue a three-game series versus the AL East-rival New York Yankees at Tropicana Field.
Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, has struggled early this season, compiling an 0-1 record with a bloated 6.26 ERA in his first four starts, failing to go longer than six innings in any of them. That's a stark contrast to the left-hander's brilliant campaign a year ago when he recorded a 20-5 mark with a gaudy 2.56 ERA en route to being honored as the AL's best pitcher.
"It's a frustrating time for myself and this team right now," Price said. "I play this game to win, and most importantly, I want our team to win every fifth day when it's my time to pitch."
Price's struggles have certainly contributed to the Rays' uneven start as a whole but Tampa certainly has gotten back on track lately and won the opener of the set on Monday, 5-1, behind Matt Moore, who has taken Price's place as the ace of the staff for now.
Moore (4-0) became the first pitcher in Rays history to win his first four starts of the season after limiting the Yankees to just a pair of hits -- both coming from Robinson Cano -- and three walks, while fanning nine over eight stellar innings. The talented young lefty has now yielded just 10 hits through 26 frames while pitching to a 1.04 earned run average on the year.
"I felt just as good, if not even better, in the seventh and eighth inning than I did in the first and second," Moore said.
Ryan Roberts went 3-for-4 with a pair of solo home runs while Yunel Escobar added a two-run homer, and Sean Rodriguez contributed an RBI triple to Tampa Bay's fourth straight win, during which the Rays have outscored the opposition by a 22-5 margin.
All three homers came off Yankees ace CC Sabathia (3-2), who allowed four runs in the bottom of the first and five overall over seven innings of work to fall to 3-9 in 19 starts against the Rays since joining the Yankees in 2009.
"It was a bad day," Sabathia said.
Cano's fourth-inning homer accounted for the lone scoring in New York's 12th loss in its last 14 visits to Tropicana Field.
Price has generally pitched very well against New York compiling a 7-3 record with a 3.77 ERA in 18 games with 17 starts. Meanwhile, the Yankees are hitting just .190 against left-handed pitchers this season with more strikeouts (54) than hits (42).
Struggling right-hander Phil Hughes will take the ball for the Yankees. Hughes has also yet to win this season (0-2, 6.43) although he did show some signs in his last outing, giving up two runs -- both on solo home runs -- in seven innings against Arizona last Thursday. Overall, the 16-game winner in 2012 is 4-4 with a 3.99 ERA in his career against the Rays.
"I felt more like myself, being aggressive, attacking hitters," Hughes told the Yankees' website. "The first couple of starts I was being a little timid and felt out of sorts."
On the injury front for New York, infielder Kevin Youkilis missed his second straight game due to lower back stiffness on Monday and is listed as day-to- day.
"It might be a couple more days," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when discussing Youkilis. "We'll see how he is."
Tampa Bay won 10 of the 18 matchups with New York last season.