At the season's halfway point for his club, general manager Brian Cashman thinks the Yankees are lucky to be where they are in the American League East.
"We're fortunate to be two games out with poor performance and injuries," Cashman said before Monday's series opener against the Rays, who haven't been so fortunate, although they have improved their play lately.
Tampa Bay (36-49) is in last place in the AL East, but beat the Yankees, 4-3, in 12 innings in Monday's series opener. They also took three of four from the Orioles over the weekend.
With a Brad Boxberger strikeout of Ichiro Suzuki in the 12th inning on Monday, Rays pitchers notched their 287th strikeout of June -- setting the all-time MLB record for strikeouts in any month. They broke the record of 286 set by the Cubs in August 2002.
On Tuesday, the first day of a new month, they'll send their ace, David Price, to the mound. Price (6-7, 3.63 ERA) leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts (144) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.29) and has struck out 10 or more batters in five straight games.
"Things are going well. I'm getting positive results right now," Price said. "But I can still execute more. I want to finish games. That's something I always want to be able to do. I want to get the 27 outs. That's something I take pride in."
The Yankees (41-40) will counter with Hiroki Kuroda, who is 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA this season. Kuroda has put together back-to-back quality starts against divisional opponents in his last two outings, a no-decision against the Orioles and a win over the Blue Jays.
Kuroda took a no-decision in his only start against the Rays this season, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings on April 18. Price's two starts against the Yankees this year were a five-inning, six-run loss to New York in April and a seven-inning, two-run no-decision in May.
Rays: Tampa Bay trying to inch its way back into contention
On June 10, the Rays dropped to a season-low 18 games under .500 and it quickly looked like the season might be a lost one. But slowly the Rays have started to creep back into the picture.
Since June 11, they have the AL's second-best record behind Oakland at 12-7. They're now 9 1/2 games back of first-place Toronto in the AL East.
"We probably picked the right year in the sense that there's a lot of bunching up right now," said manager Joe Maddon. "I think if we're ever going to have the opportunity to do it, it would be this year."
This current road trip has been an important spark. The Rays had lost 10 straight road games from May 17 to June 3 but have won six of their last eight away from home.
"This last week or so, we've finally started to look as we thought we would look," Maddon said. "Just being around the guys, they just feel different, they sound different, they look different. A lot of that has to do with the offense in general."
Yankees: Cashman ready to navigate trade market
The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is still about a month away, but Cashman does not want to wait.
"I'm ready to rock and roll," Cashman said prior to Monday's game against the Rays. "But again, I think those who have [trade pieces] are taking their time. Certain pieces, it's been communicated that if they get what they want, which would be an extreme haul, they're ready to move sooner than later."
One of the biggest trade pieces in baseball is Price. With his team in last place, Price has been the subject of much trade speculation, which the left-hander has said is frustrating at times.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said such rumors can have varying effects on a team.
"I think it depends on the players in the room, how they decide to let it affect them," Girardi said. "Sometimes it can be a rallying call, too, that we need to turn this around or this is what's going to happen. It can work for the good a lot of times. I'm sure at times it can become a hassle because they have to answer questions about it, but it comes down to the leadership in that room and how they handle it."
Price could be a potential target for the Yankees, who have had to deal with a number of injuries to their starting rotation, but the asking price for the lefty ace might be too high.
• With their 41-40 record through their first 81 games of 2014, the Yankees have a record of at least .500 through the first half of the season for the 18th time in 19 years (since 1996).
• When reliever Joel Peralta gave up a game-tying home run to Brian Roberts in the ninth inning on Monday, Rays starter Chris Archer lost his chance at becoming the first pitcher to win his first five career games against the Yankees since Walter Johnson in 1907-08.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.