The Tampa Bay Rays, coming off a two-game sweep of the Miami Marlins, are set for a showdown with the American League East-leading New York Yankees.
The teams begin a four-game series on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Rays can take confidence from their recent success against the Yankees. Tampa Bay has won 19 of the teams' 29 matchups over the past two seasons, outscoring New York by 61 runs in that span.
With their series-sweeping 5-4 win over the Marlins on Wednesday, the Rays were victorious for the 16th time in their past 18 games in the Citrus Series.
For the second night in a row, former Marlins player Harold Ramirez put it to his old club on Wednesday.
After slugging his first home run of the season on Tuesday, he barreled up a Cody Poteet slider on Wednesday and sent it 432 feet to left field for another homer. The blast produced the Rays' final two tallies in a five-run first inning.
Sporting dyed blue hair that he vows to keep the whole season, Ramirez has made a change in his approach that looks as if it will keep him in the lineup.
"I enjoyed the moment," said Ramirez, who is batting .287 with 12 RBIs in 33 games. "I feel very good because the adjustment has helped me a lot. You see the results."
Tampa Bay's winning pitcher on Wednesday, Drew Rasmussen, is ready for the next four games, though he isn't scheduled to pitch.
"Super excited. It's always a fun series with those guys," Rasmussen said. "It'll be a good test for us."
The Yankees hold spring training across the bay from St. Petersburg in Tampa. The organization also maintains a team in the Class-A Florida State League -- the Tampa Tarpons -- at the spring complex's George M. Steinbrenner Field.
In the rubber game of their three-game series with Baltimore, the Yankees beat the Orioles 2-0 on Wednesday behind a fine five-inning start from JP Sears and four scoreless innings of relief.
The Yankees put closer Aroldis Chapman (left Achilles tendinitis) and Jonathan Loaisiga (sore right shoulder) on the injured list the past two days. The moves damage a relief corps that has been strong.
All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton (right ankle inflammation) also was placed on the injured list on Wednesday. New York manager Aaron Boone hopes his staff caught the injury in time before it becomes lingering.
"Feel like we got good news," Boone said. "The Achilles is fine and no strain, so just feel like this is something that's going to be short and feel like we should knock it out and not mess with it and maybe it becomes something else. So hopefully he got out in front of it a little bit and hopefully it's just 10 days."
Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu missed the past two games due to left wrist soreness. Boone said LeMahieu had a clean MRI and cortisone shot, adding that he expects the All-Star back in the lineup early in the Tampa Bay series.
New York left-hander Nestor Cortes (3-1, 1.80 ERA) will start Thursday. He has won his past two starts, though he yielded three runs and six hits in five innings on Saturday in a 7-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox. He is 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA in seven career appearances against the Rays, including two starts.
Tampa Bay's Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 4.20 ERA) will make his 10th career appearance and second start against the Yankees. The lefty is 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA vs. New York.
Yarbrough's most recent appearance was a four-inning relief outing at Baltimore on Friday, when he gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits.
--Field Level Media