Tampa Bay (36-40) posted a 4-0 victory Saturday at Tropicana Field after a 2-1 win Friday. For the second day in a row, the Rays relied on a patchwork relievers-as-starters bullpen-day approach.
The Yankees have not gone this late into a season without losing three in a row since August 1954.
The Rays have an actual starter on the mound Sunday in Blake Snell, who looks like an All-Star with a 9-4 record and 2.48 ERA. But he's 0-2 against the Yankees with a 9.72 ERA, including his only loss in his last seven outings.
On June 14, Snell gave up four runs in five innings in a loss to the Yankees. By comparison, he has a 0.95 ERA in three outings against the Boston Red Sox.
Snell's career record against the Yankees is 2-4 with a 4.89 ERA in 10 starts.
If Snell has the Yankees (50-24) as a nemesis, New York starter Domingo German (2-4, 4.77 ERA) is nearly the opposite -- he had no wins in his first 11 appearances of the season until a June 14 game against the Rays when he lasted six innings and gave up three runs and five hits with a season-high 10 strikeouts for his first victory of the year. German made it two straight wins with a 7-2 victory over Seattle on Tuesday, striking out nine.
A Rays sweep of the Yankees would be unexpected, given that they opened the season with five straight wins over Tampa Bay by a combined score of 31-10. The Rays had lost five of seven entering the series, but now are one win from a sweep.
"That road trip kind of knocked us in the mouth a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We faced arguably the two best teams in the American League (Yankees and Astros). ... To be able to come back here, take the off day, get back at home and the fans, my gosh, the fan support that we've gotten has been outstanding, and to find a way to win two games has to be special for this clubhouse."
The Yankees have dominated in the first three months of the season and so scoring one run in a span of two nights is concerning but nothing Aaron Boone is too worried about long term. The Yankees haven't had extended hitting slumps this season, so he's eager to see his lineup get back to business even before the squad leaves town.
"You're going to hit a little dry spell like that," Boone said. "Overall, we haven't really been mounting much since that big inning a couple of days ago. Over the course of 162 games, that is going to happen. We just have to keep grinding at it and really come back and have that urgency (Sunday), to try to get out of here with one (win) under our belt."