Yanks take swing at series win; Rays reintroduce Shane Baz

With a chance to seal their first series victory in nearly a month, the New York Yankees oppose the Tampa Bay Rays in the decisive game of a three-game set on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

After a 2-1 win over the Rays on Wednesday night, New York can leave Florida for a critical weekend set with the Baltimore Orioles carrying much-needed momentum.

The Yankees won the first three contests of their four-game series with the Kansas City Royals on June 10-12, then dropped 17 of their next 23 games.

On Wednesday, Trent Grisham drove in both New York runs and chased down a line drive to right-center field to end the eighth inning. The Yankees’ relievers, starting with Tim Hill in the fifth inning, routinely worked out of jams to preserve the victory.

“That was the ultimate bend but don’t break, playing the nickel defense on ’em there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Just a great job. A lot of big moments in that game, especially with what we’re going through and guys just coming through over and over again.”

The Rays went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 on base Wednesday, losing for the fourth time in five games.

“We did a lot of good things and had some good at-bats to get guys on base,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Just couldn’t find a way to get that big hit to get us back in the ballgame.”

New York left-hander Nestor Cortes (4-7, 3.41 ERA) will attempt to end a three-start winless skid when he takes the mound on Thursday.

Cortes allowed three runs in road losses to the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays before surrendering just a solo homer among three hits over six innings in a no-decision vs. the visiting Boston Red Sox on Friday.

Cortes is 4-3 with a 1.81 ERA in 10 starts at home this season, as opposed to 0-4 with a 5.63 ERA in nine starts on the road. He is 2-4 with a 4.19 ERA in 14 career appearances (nine starts) against the Rays.

He tossed seven shutout innings in a no-decision vs. Tampa Bay on April 20 before permitting four runs on five hits — including two homers — in 5 1/3 innings during a 7-2 loss to the Rays on May 11.

Tampa Bay righty Shane Baz (0-1, 4.50) will provide the opposition in his first start at Tropicana Field since June 28, 2022. Baz returned from Tommy John surgery again throwing in the high 90s. He touched 98 mph on the radar gun in his first start in two years on Friday, a 3-0 setback to the Texas Rangers.

Baz, 25, allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings against the Rangers.

“I try and put every outing past me, like, good or bad and just start focusing on the next one,” Baz said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “I would say I attacked well. That’s always my goal. So, yeah, I’m going to just try and stick to the game plan (Thursday).”

Baz will be making his 11th career start and third against the Yankees. He has no decisions and a 2.45 ERA in two previous encounters with New York.

–Field Level Media