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Preview: Yankees (78-64) at Rays (69-73)
Venue: Tropicana Field
Date: September 14, 2015 7:10 PM EDT
The New York Yankees damaged their AL East title hopes with a poor homestand.
Now they start a road trip with a pitcher who is among the worst in baseball and a hitter who has been abysmal since the All-Star break.
CC Sabathia is enduring a career-worst, eight-start winless stretch and Jacoby Ellsbury is in a major slump ahead of Monday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
New York (78-64) ended a five-game slide and avoided a four-game sweep with Sunday’s 5-0 victory over Toronto that cut the Blue Jays’ lead atop the East to 3 1/2 games.
“You look at the weekend, it’s not what we want,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We really had a chance to win two games but we came out of here with one.”
The Yankees went 4-6 on a homestand preceding this nine-game trip, but were 5-1 on their last road stretch.
“You can’t afford to lose four in this situation and now we’ve got to go have a good road trip,” Girardi said. “We did not have a great homestand, but we had a good road trip the last time, we need to have another one.”
Sabathia (4-9, 5.16 ERA) will get the start after going 0-1 with a 4.43 ERA in eight outings since the All-Star break. He pitched Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 23, wearing a new, tighter brace that better holds the ligaments in place in his surgically repaired right knee, and gave up three runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore.
“The brace held up, and I feel confident going out there from here forward,” said Sabathia, whose ERA is one of baseball’s worst.
The left-hander is 6-13 with a 4.47 ERA in 26 starts against Tampa Bay (69-73) since joining the Yankees in 2009. New York is 3-10 in his starts at Tropicana Field.
Evan Longoria is a .393 hitter with six homers off Sabathia and Logan Forsythe is 6 for 12 with two home runs. James Loney is 5 for 23 in the matchup, J.P. Arencibia is 2 for 20 and Brandon Guyer 1 for 17.
Ellsbury is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and has been one of baseball’s worst hitters since the All-Star break with a .208 average. He is batting .104 with no extra-base hits in his last 12 games.
“We need to get him going,” Girardi said.
Ellsbury is a .383 hitter in 2015 against Tampa Bay and 3 for 4 with a homer off Monday’s starter Erasmo Ramirez.
Ramirez (10-5, 3.96) is 0-1 with a 6.20 ERA in his last four outings and has failed to record an out past the fifth in three straight.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts and three relief appearances in 2015 against New York. Chase Headley is 1 for 13 against him, Stephen Drew is 0 for 9 and Chris Young 1 for 7.
The Yankees are 10-6 against the Rays, who dropped their fifth in seven games with Sunday’s 2-0, 13-inning home loss to Boston. Tampa Bay has lost 11 straight in extra innings.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” right fielder Steven Souza Jr. said of the extra-inning woes. “It’s nuts.”