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Series Preview: Rays @ Yankees

After a much-needed travel day off, the Yankees will return to the Bronx for a six-game home-stand, which begins with a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.

When they opened up the 2012 season in Tampa Bay, the outcome wasn’t favorable for the Yankees. They were swept away in that initial three-game series and have been on an up and down ride ever since. A little payback is on the mind of the Yanks, but they’ll be challenged once again by thorough starting pitching and threatening bats from the Rays.

Tonight’s opening game will feature a pitching matchup that consists of the undefeated James Shields (5-0) from the Rays and Ivan Nova (3-1) for the Yanks. Nova will attempt to get back to his winning ways, coming off a loss in his last start. Shields pitched the season opener, in a game where the bombers jumped on him early, and after just five innings of work, he managed to escape with a no decision after the Rays pulled out a victory. But Shields has been on a tear since, winning his last five starts. The bombers lineup, who finally broke out Sunday, will need a repeat to slow the roll Shields has been on.

David Phelps will get his second career start for the Yankees in Wednesday night’s game. Shaking up the rotation last week, Girardi made the move to add Phelps to the list of starters, while the slacking Freddy Garcia was pushed back to the bullpen. New York hopes to get a deeper outing from Phelps this time around, who only lasted four innings in his debut. The Yankee batters will face Jeff Nieman, who will get the start for the Rays in this matchup.

The finale on Thursday night, will spotlight aces on the mound for both clubs. New York’s batting order will have another tough test when they face the lefty, David Price, who pitched well against them the first time. Price has gone on to a 5-1 record, while keeping opposing bats hushed with his 2.35 ERA. Meanwhile, C.C. Sabathia has been heating up as the season progresses. After a slow start to 2012, Sabathia has won four straight decisions and his ERA has steadily declined as his performances have been more dominant. The Yanks need another strong outing from their ace in this key division series.

It’s imperative for the Yankees to take at least two of the three games against the Rays, as they attempt to regain some of the ground they’ve recently lost in the AL East division.

The Yanks get set for a key division series with rival Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx