Rays at Yankees
The Tampa Bay Rays face quite the litmus test as they embark on a 16-game stretch in which they play only the New York Yankees, Houston and Washington. The Rays (32-35), who own a lackluster 11-26 mark against winning teams this season, open that imposing stretch on the road Thursday with the first of four games versus the New York Yankees (43-20).
"We're going to really see what kind of team we have here against the best in the league," said Thursday starter Blake Snell, who owns a 3-0 mark with a rail-thin 0.38 ERA in his past four outings. Tampa Bay countered a disastrous 1-9 stretch by completing a three-game sweep of Toronto with Wednesday afternoon's 1-0 triumph, courtesy of Matt Duffy's RBI single in the ninth inning. New York has answered a 9-1 stretch by dropping two of three, including a 5-4 decision on Wednesday in the finale of an abbreviated two-game interleague series versus the Nationals. Giancarlo Stanton and Greg Bird showed signs of working their way out of their respective pronounced slumps, with the former collecting three hits while the latter belted a towering homer in the loss.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FS1
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays LH Blake Snell (8-3, 2.30 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Domingo German (0-4, 5.32)
Snell matched a career high by winning his fourth consecutive decision on Saturday after allowing two runs (one earned) on a season-high seven hits in six innings of a 7-3 victory versus Seattle. The 25-year-old struck out two in that contest after fanning his first seven batters to begin his previous start en route to a 12-strikeout performance. Gary Sanchez is 4-for-10 with three homers against Snell, although the left-hander has flustered Aaron Judge (0-for-6) and Aaron Hicks (0-for-6).
German overcame two homers to strike out nine over six innings in a no-decision against the New York Mets on Saturday. The 25-year-old Dominican didn't walk a batter for the first time since a three-inning effort at Boston on April 12. German will be making his 19th appearance (seventh start) on Thursday by facing the Yankees for the first time in his career.
1. New York owns a 15-4 mark against left-handed starters this season.
2. Tampa Bay CF Mallex Smith is 13-for-23 with five runs scored and four RBIs during his seven-game hitting streak.
3. Yankees OF Brett Gardner went 3-for-8 with four runs scored in two games versus the Rays on April 3-4.