A-Rod eyes Mays as Yanks host Rays

(SportsNetwork.com) - Alex Rodriguez is one home run away from tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Rodriguez goes after No. 660 on Monday when the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez moved within one of the milestone and drove in two runs on Sunday to help the Yankees beat the Mets, 6-4, and take two of three in the Subway Series. Gregorio Petit, Brett Gardner and Chris Young all had one RBI apiece for the Yankees, who improved to 11-8 on the young season and are tied with the Rays atop the AL East.

"Willie was my father's favorite player," Rodriguez said. "I remember hearing about Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle all the time. He's one of my heroes."

Of course, once Rodriguez matches Mays he'll earn $6 million as part of a milestone marketing deal agreed upon by he and the Yankees when he signed his monster deal after the 2007 season. The Yankees, though, may try to avoid that given A-Rod's performance-enhancing drug suspension.

The Yankees have barely acknowledged Rodriguez's chase, as well as other achievements he is closing in on.

"I don't have a marketing degree, so I'm just focusing on playing baseball," said Rodriguez, who has hit five home runs this season.

Getting the call for the Yankees on Monday will be righty Adam Warren, who picked up his first win his last time out. Warren defeated Detroit on Wednesday, as he battled the elements and allowed four runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings to improve to 1-1 to go along with a 5.40 ERA.

"I think you just kind of have to learn how to pitch out there and find a way to get some feeling in your hands and on the ball," Warren said of the frigid temperatures. "I think the biggest thing I did was just kind of slowed things down and tried to work down in the zone instead of missing high."

Heading to the hill for Tampa on Monday will be righty Nathan Karns, who is 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA. Karns did not get a decision on Wednesday against Boston, but was not sharp, as he yielded five runs and seven hits in six innings. He also walked four batters for the second straight start and has issued 14 free passes in 23 2/3 innings.

Karns did not get a decision against the Yankees two starts ago when he gave up a pair of runs in five innings.

Tampa comes into this series rolling with five straight wins following a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. On Sunday, Chris Archer threw seven shutout innings and Brandon Guyer homered on the second pitch in the bottom of the first to lead Tampa Bay to a 5-1 victory.

Archer (3-2) allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out seven, lowering his earned run average to 0.84. He has not allowed an earned run since the sixth inning of his Opening Day start against Baltimore, a stretch of 26 2/3 innings.

"Can't say enough about what Archer did," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "He was so sick, he was throwing up between innings. (Today) might have been his most impressive outing because of the way he felt."

Prior to the five-game winning streak the Rays had dropped four in a row, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Tampa, though, won 11 of 19 from the Yanks last season.