Locking a pair of former Cy Young Award winners head to head always teases with an appealing pitching matchup, but the actual in-game results between CC Sabathia and David Price have proven to be rather lopsided.
The left-handers will meet for the 10th time in their respective careers on Thursday at Tropicana Field, and the Rays have won eight of those nine previous showdowns, with Price going 6-1 and owning a 2.68 ERA in those matchups.
It may go beyond just Price, as it has been difficult for Sabathia to gain any traction against the Rays. Since signing with the Yankees as a free agent before the 2009 season, Sabathia has won just four of his 23 starts against Tampa Bay.
Sabathia was thrilled with his first five innings against the Red Sox on April 11, as he held Boston to one hit with six strikeouts. As was the case in his first two starts of the season, it was one bad inning that came back to haunt Sabathia.
In this case, Sabathia lost his focus after a rare David Ortiz infield hit and wound up hanging a slider to former Indians teammate Grady Sizemore, who launched it deep to right field for a go-ahead three-run homer.
"I just haven't been able to put a whole game together," Sabathia said. "I'm pitching well at times, but I need to be able to stay even-keeled and make pitches in big situations like that. I was just frustrated and kind of rushed through and left a pitch hanging."
Price is coming off a more encouraging outing. In his last start against the Reds, Price came two outs away from recording the third shutout of his career.
Instead, he surrendered a ninth-inning home run to Joey Votto, but he still came away with his second win of the season. The Rays need those kind of efforts after losing two starters, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, to the disabled list.
"You can't go out there and add extra pressure, knowing that a couple of our other staff members have gone down right now, or whether or not we have kind of a light bullpen," Price said. "You definitely know the situation at hand. I don't think applying added pressure to yourself does you any favors."
Yankees: Sizemore offering versatility
Scott Sizemore does not own a first baseman's glove, but he may need to find one quickly. With the Yankees facing left-handers in the first two games against the Rays, manager Joe Girardi said that it is possible that he will use the right-handed-hitting Sizemore at first base to rest the left-handed-hitting Kelly Johnson.
Sizemore was taking ground balls at first base with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he batted .344 (11-for-32) with four runs scored, three doubles and five RBIs in 10 games before being promoted to the big leagues on Tuesday.
"Obviously the more practice you get, the more comfortable you feel, but I feel like I'm a good enough infielder and a good enough athlete to do it," Sizemore said. "It's just learning the position and knowing the responsibilities is probably what would be the most challenging thing."
Rays: Just can't worry
Rays manager Joe Maddon continues to be optimistic about his team's chances, even in the wake of significant injuries. Maddon points out that the Rays lost Price, Moore and Cobb to the disabled list at different points during the 2013 season and still managed to compete on a nightly basis.
"We've done it, and we'll fight our way through this also," Maddon said. "I don't get despondent. ... We feel good about our guys. I know we're going to start hitting. We might have to win that 7-6 game, that 5-4 or that 8-7 game now, which we have not been doing to this point. It's a one-run game in a different form."
• The Rays are 18-11 in the last 29 games against the Yankees, and 26-15 against the Yankees dating back to Sept. 22, 2011. Tampa Bay was 12-7 against the Yankees in the regular season last year, and New York has not won a season series against the Rays since 2009.
• The Yankees are 6-16 in their last 22 games at Tropicana Field since July 21, 2011, and have lost each of their last four season series at The Trop, going 13-23 over that span from 2010-13.
• Rays pitchers shut out the Yankees four times in 2013, making them only the third team in the last 30 years to do so (1997 Blue Jays and 1990 A's).
• The Rays outhomered the Yankees 26-9 in 2013, the largest margin ever by Tampa Bay against the Bombers.