The New York Yankees attempt to avoid a sweep and try to maintain at least a share of the American League East lead on Wednesday when they wrap up a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
New York's once 10-game advantage in the division is now gone, as the Yankees slipped into a first-place tie with Baltimore on Tuesday thanks to an 8-5 loss to Tampa Bay, coupled with an Orioles' rout in Toronto.
"We're tied", Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "It's time to start at zero. Just keep playing hard, and forget about what happened the past few weeks. Just focus on the game."
Evan Longoria slugged a two-run homer, while both B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings hit solo shots for the Rays, who have won four in a row and moved just 1 1/2 games back of both the Yanks and Orioles.
"A lot of people on our side kind of wrote it off when we were 10 1/2 games out, but I've been around long enough to know that this is a long season," said Upton. "A lot of things can happen, especially with the second wild card in place."
Alex Cobb (9-8) allowed four hits and a pair of runs over seven innings, fanning five with one walk.
"I stuck to my game plan," Cobb said. "When I established I was in the zone and got their bats in swing mode, I was able to work a little bit out of the zone and make them chase after some pitches."
Fernando Rodney picked up his 42nd save and second in as many days with a scoreless ninth.
Cano's two-run blast in the first inning was all the offense for the Yankees, who have lost five of six. New York, though, has held a lead in seven of its past 10 losses, including the first two games of this series.
"It's hard to win if you don't hit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've had a tough time scoring runs the last couple of weeks. ... That's been part of our problem."
Freddy Garcia (7-6) was tagged in defeat for five runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
Hoping for a better effort tonight, the Yanks turn to Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who has lost his last two starts. Kuroda was defeated by Baltimore on Friday, as he allowed four runs and eight hits in 8 1/3 frames to fall to 12-10 on the year to go along with a 3.04 ERA.
Kuroda lost to the Rays earlier in the year in his only other start against them, serving up six runs in just 5 2/3 frames.
Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with 23-year-old left Matt Moore, who is 10-8 with a 3.58 ERA. Moore absorbed the loss on Thursday in Toronto, as he surrendered two runs and six hits with three walks in six innings.
"I can't really get on a young pitcher who gives up two runs in six innings," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "When you don't score any runs you can't cover any mistakes."
Moore has beaten the Yankees both times he has faced them and has pitched to a 2.25 ERA in doing so.
Tampa has won nine of 14 matchups with the Yanks this season, including seven of eight at the Trop.