NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The Rays feel facing the Yankees for the first time in 2011 isn’t a big deal.
That may be because the AL East leaders have a more pressing concern in trying to solve their sluggish performances at Tropicana Field. Though, so do the Yankees.
The floundering Bombers, looking to avoid their longest slide in over four years when the division foes meet Monday night, will face Tampa Bay hurler David Price (5-3, 3.12 ERA).
He’s 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight games against New York, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three at Tropicana Field with each resulting in Tampa Bay victories.
The Yankees were swept by Boston in a three-game weekend series at home, losing 7-5 Sunday. New York has lost five straight and nine of 12.
Another loss would give New York its longest skid since a seven-game slide April 20-27, 2007.
“It seems like when things are going bad, they’re going bad,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re going to turn it around.”
The Yankees hope A.J. Burnett (4-2, 3.38) can continue his road dominance of the Rays. The right-hander is 6-2 with a 1.64 ERA over his last nine starts at Tropicana Field, winning four in a row.
Burnett was erratic Wednesday, allowing a solo homer while walking five, hitting a batter and striking out six in seven innings of a 4-3, 11-inning loss to Kansas City.
“The bottom line is you don’t want to walk guys and put guys on, but you have to make the pitches,” Burnett said.
He appears to have put a public spat with the team behind him after refusing to bat ninth for Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the Red Sox. Posada apologized to Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman on Sunday.
“We had a nice conversation. We talked about being emotional and going through struggles and what defines who you are. He apologized and said, ‘I had a bad day,’ and I said, ‘I have had bad days, too,’” Girardi said. “‘I know it’s hard to struggle, but you’re going to get through this.’”
The Yankees have committed 13 errors in 10 games, one more than they had through the first 28 contests.
Tampa Bay (23-17) is atop the division by two games on New York (20-18), and a two-game set would appear to give them a chance to widen that gap. The Rays, however, feel otherwise.
“It’s so early in the season that it’s not that big of a series,” second baseman Ben Zobrist told the team’s official website. “We treat every series the same. I know that sounds boring, but that’s just the way that it is right now.
“If we start treating a team a little bit different than the other, we inevitably are going to have letdown games.”
The Rays are already having letdowns with a 10-12 home record after losing the last two of a three-game weekend series with Baltimore, falling 9-3 Sunday.
They’ve failed to score more than five runs in any of their 22 home games, becoming the first team with that dubious distinction since the Brooklyn Superbas in the first 26 games of 1908.
“It’s no fun,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve really tried to analyze it and think it all the way through, and I have no idea. It’s just strange.”
Price will try to help Tampa Bay avoid a third straight loss at home, where he’s 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA, striking out 30 in 28 innings over four starts. The left-hander allowed no earned runs in both victories.
He was terrific again Wednesday, yielding two runs while fanning seven in eight innings of an 8-2 win at Cleveland.
“You want to go out there and throw your game no matter who you are facing,” Price said.
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