Rays nearing postseason spot, open set at Yankee Stadium

The Tampa Bay Rays try to get themselves closer to a playoff spot and perhaps deal the New York Yankees the death knell to their postseason hopes with the first of three games at Yankee Stadium.

Tampa enters this series atop the wild card standings after an incredible win on Monday in the finale of a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, as James Loney's pinch-hit solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning capped a late rally that propelled the Rays to a 5-4 victory.

"It feels pretty good, obviously, to win the game like that in the last game of the regular season at home ... it's a special feeling," Loney said.

The Rays had previously battled back from a 4-2 deficit by scoring twice in the seventh, and sent their fans home happy when Loney's liner into the seats capped a four-game sweep and lowered Tampa's magic number for clinching a postseason spot to five.

"You can feel it, you can't necessarily describe it, but it's there," manager Joe Maddon said "You know that your guys have that vibe going on. It's a good feeling."

Tampa, which will play its final six games on the road, hopes that won't be the last time it plays at Tropicana Field. The Rays are one game clear of the Cleveland Indians in the wild card mix and two games in front of the Texas Rangers.

New York, though, is four games back.

Hoping to knock the Yankees back even further on Tuesday will be lefty Matt Moore, who is 15-4 with a 3.34 ERA. Moore absorbed the loss and was roughed up by Texas on Thursday to the tune of six runs (5 earned) and seven hits in just four innings.

"Beating them is going to worsen their chances of getting in, so we can kill a couple birds with that one stone," Moore said of the Yanks.

Moore is 4-2 in eight starts versus the Yankees with a 4.24 ERA.

New York will counter with struggling righty Hiroki Kuroda, who is winless in his last seven starts (0-5) and is 11-12 with a 3.17 ERA. Kuroda's latest loss came on Thursday in Toronto, as he surrendered three runs and eight hits in six innings.

Kuroda has split four meetings with the Rays and has pitched to a 7.23 ERA - his highest against any opponent. He was pounded by Tampa earlier in the year, allowing seven runs - including a career high-tying four homers - in six innings back on Aug. 23.

New York's slim postseason hopes may have evaporated on Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Andy Pettitte suffered the loss in what was likely his final Yankee Stadium appearance, as the Yankees fell for the sixth time in their last nine games.

"We're still alive obviously, but this one really hurt," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's tough."

To make matters worse, the Yankees announced on Monday that lefty CC Sabathia will miss the rest of the season after injuring his hamstring in his last start.

Tampa has taken nine of its 16 matchups with the Yankees this season.