The Tampa Bay Rays try to continue their home mastery of the New York Yankees on Friday when the American League East foes kick off a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Tampa took two of three from the Yankees in St. Petersburg earlier in the year and has beaten them in 13 of the last 16 matchups there. In fact the Yanks have lost nine straight series at the Trop and haven't won one there since taking two of three from April 9-11, 2010.
The Rays enter this series four games back of the Yankees in the division and have won four of their last six matchups. The two losses in that stretch, though, came this week at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Rays, 4-3, in 10 innings on Wednesday.
"Everybody is doing their best, they're trying," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "It's just not working out."
Third baseman Evan Longoria has certainly done his part, as he enters this weekend riding a career-best 16-game hitting streak and has reached base in 25 straight games. He is hitting .397 over the course of the hitting streak with three home runs and 14 RBI.
The stretch is three shy of Jason Bartlett's club record set in 2009.
Getting the call for Tampa on Friday will be righty Roberto Hernandez, who could be pitching to stay in the Rays' rotation. After two impressive starts that saw him allow three runs, Hernandez was roughed up in Baltimore on Saturday to the tune of five runs and eight hits in just two innings. However, he did not factor in the decision of his team's 10-6 win and is 2-4 with a 5.24 ERA on the year.
Hernandez's struggles could continue on Friday, as he is just 1-5 lifetime versus the Yankees with a 7.16 ERA in 11 games (8 starts).
New York, meanwhile, also enters this series on a sour note after losing two of three to the Baltimore Orioles, culminating with a 6-3 setback on Wednesday.
Hiroki Kuroda (6-3) had a rough time, serving up eight hits and getting charged for five runs before exiting with none out in the bottom of the third, the result of a bruised right calf the New York starter sustained from a Manny Machado line drive an inning earlier.
Curtis Granderson had a big night in defeat for the Yankees, finishing 3-for-3 with two runs scored and his first home run of the season. David Adams added another solo homer in the top of the ninth.
Heading to the hill for the Yankees on Friday will be righty David Phelps, who is 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA. Phelps was terrific in beating Toronto on Saturday, as he allowed a run and six hits in seven innings. He also struck out eight batters.
Phelps has faced the Rays four times (2 starts) and has pitched to a 0.87 ERA against them without recording a decision.