SPORTS

Rays-Yankees Preview

Matt Moore is slowly regaining his pre-surgery form and the Tampa Bay Rays' offense is awakening from an early-season slumber.

That could make for a bad combination for a New York Yankees team that continues to be plagued by untimely hitting and inconsistent pitching.

The Rays enter Yankee Stadium for Friday night's opener of this three-game series with plenty of momentum, having won four of five and breaking out offensively in Thursday's wild 12-8 victory at Boston. After tagging former ace David Price for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings to erase an early 5-1 deficit, they scored four over the final two after the Red Sox rallied to tie it at 8-all.

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"That was a resilient win. I think that's fair to say," manager Kevin Cash told MLB's official website.

Tampa Bay (7-8) entered the game last in the majors with a .207 average and at the bottom of the AL with 40 runs scored.

While the Rays are surging, New York (5-9) is sputtering during its worst 14-game start since also going 5-9 in 2005. The Yankees have produced 18 runs while hitting .212 during a 1-7 stretch, and they're batting an anemic .101 with runners in scoring position over their last nine.

"I really believe there's a lot of talent in that room and we'll turn it around,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ''We're just going through a hard time right now and you got to fight through it.''

New York fell to 0-4 against left-handed starters after being held to two runs and three hits by Rich Hill through six innings of Thursday's 7-3 loss to Oakland, completing the Athletics' first three-game sweep in the Bronx since 2006. Hill registered 10 of 14 strikeouts by A's pitchers.

The Yankees face another tough southpaw in Moore (1-0, 2.95 ERA), who fanned 10 over 6 1/3 innings in Sunday's 3-2 win over the White Sox. After going 1-4 with an 8.42 ERA over his first eight starts since returning from Tommy John surgery last July, the 2013 All-Star is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 45 innings over his last seven.

''I do feel strong right now, which is something that the last 24 months has not been a word I've been using lot,'' he said. ''I still feel like there's a lot of things I'm working on.''

Moore is 3-1 in six Yankee Stadium starts but owns a 5.63 ERA over the past five, issuing 15 walks in 24 innings.

He'll face a lineup that's received little of late from its heart. Mark Teixeira is 3 for 33 with one RBI over his last 10 games and Alex Rodriguez is batting .156 after going 0 for 2 Thursday.

Jacoby Ellsbury did record three hits Thursday and Brett Gardner, 8 for 17 over his last five, expects to play after not starting the last two games due to a stiff neck.

CC Sabathia (1-1, 5.06) makes his third start for New York and looks to bounce back from a shaky effort Saturday against Seattle, when he allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 3-2 loss.

The Rays have been a challenging assignment for the veteran lefty, as he's 6-13 with a 4.31 ERA in 27 starts since joining the Yankees in 2009. Sabathia did defeat Tampa Bay last May and tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings at Tropicana Field in a no-decision on September 14.

Evan Longoria, who homered off Price, is batting .375 with six home runs against Sabathia. Logan Forsythe is 6 for 15 with two home runs in the matchup and went 3 for 4 Thursday.