07/31/10 6:17 PM ET
Sunday showdown looms for CC, Shields
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
It's going to be quite a Sunday at the Trop.
The Yankees moved into the top spot in the division on June 20 and have not relinquished their position. They helped themselves on Saturday, topping the Rays, 5-4, to extend the lead to two games. A win by the Rays would have created a tie.
Instead, both teams will vie for the series win in Sunday's finale. The Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound, and the Rays will counter with James Shields.
As for Rodriguez, he's now gone 37 at-bats without a home run, though he has driven in 41 runs in his past 34 games.
"The way I'm swinging now, it's probably going to take a while," Rodriguez said. "Everybody get comfortable. I'm just glad to be out there helping the team somehow. I scored a run. People are asking me about home runs. I'm asking for a hit-by-pitch, infield hit, bunt single, error. I'll get on base anyhow. The home run will come."
It will be up to Shields and company to keep Rodriguez in check. Shields is 2-7 with a 5.45 ERA for his career vs. the Yankees, and 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA this season against them. His opponent, Sabathia, is 1-0 in two starts against Tampa Bay this season. Sabathia lost for the first time since May 23 in his most recent start, a career-high 123-pitch outing against the Indians on Tuesday.
"I felt like it was so-so," Sabathia said. "I had good stuff. I just didn't make the pitches I needed to. I felt like I had a good fastball, and the changeup was better than the last time. It just didn't work out."
Yankees at a glance
Nick Swisher has now hit at least 20 home runs in six consecutive seasons. ... Mariano Rivera is 55-for-56 in save opportunities against the Rays. ... The Yankees lead the Majors in runs scored this season, with 563. ... Manager Joe Girardi said that one way he might use the newly acquired Austin Kearns is to give Curtis Granderson a day off against left-handed pitching, using Kearns in left field, with Brett Gardner shifting to center. ... Lance Berkman went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter in his Yankees debut on Saturday. He said that does not mind where he hits in the lineup or if he plays in the field.
Rays around the horn
The Rays placed reliever Grant Balfour on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with an intercostal strain. Because of this, the Rays will not have to make a roster move to account for the addition of Chad Qualls yet. ... Andrew Friedman, the executive vice president of baseball operations, said it was "hard to say" how close the Rays came to making another deal in addition to the one for Qualls. ... Manager Joe Maddon cites his team's defense as a big reason for its success this season. The Rays are fourth in the AL in fielding percentage, at .986.
"I really do think we have the best defense on a nightly basis," Maddon said. "The thing that I really believe is that our guys like it. They like to defend that concept. Our guys like to play defense. They understand the importance of it, and I really appreciate that about our players. Every team does, but our guys really get after it."
Carl Crawford stole the 400th base of his career on Saturday night. Only six other players reached 400 before the age of 29 -- Rickey Henderson (701), Ty Cobb (581), Vince Coleman (549), Tim Raines (544), Cesar Cedeno (427) and Eddie Collins (421). ... With the addition of Kearns and Berkman, the Yankees have nine players on their roster who were selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. The others are Phil Hughes, Derek Jeter, Dustin Moseley, Rodriguez, Sabathia, Swisher and Mark Teixeira. ... Gardner has been named the Yankees' winner of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association 2010 "Heart and Hustle Award." ... Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit has pitched nine consecutive scoreless innings since July 17.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.