MLB

Yankees-Rays Preview

The New York Yankees have taken first-inning leads in the first three games of this series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It hasn't resulted in victories the last two nights.

New York will try to split this series Thursday night at Tropicana Field as it faces Erasmo Ramirez, who is winless in his last 15 starts.

The Yankees (21-14) opened this series by scoring a run in the first of Monday's 11-5 rout. The problem the next two nights was failing to add onto two-run, first-inning leads, falling 4-2 on Tuesday and 3-2 on Wednesday.

''Deja vu,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ''Don't know if many people would have predicted it.''

New York had four hits over the final eight innings Tuesday and didn't capitalize on eight over the final eight Wednesday. The Yankees have no extra-base hits in back-to-back games for the first time all season.

This is the first stop of a nine-game road trip for New York, which is trying to avoid its second three-game slide.

"We're in the midst of a long road trip and we need to respond tomorrow," manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees hope to get off to another fast start as they take on Ramirez (0-1, 8.38 ERA), who makes his third start after going 0-1 with an 11.05 ERA in his first two in April against Toronto.

"In the first game I tried to be perfect, and in the second one I was fighting with my mechanics, and now I'm relaxed and focused on throwing strikes because that is all I want, and that is what I want to show to everyone," Ramirez told MLB's official site. "Not even just the team, but the fans and everyone who is looking at the game."

The right-hander last won a start April 1, 2014, with Seattle. He has gone 0-7 with a 6.12 ERA since.

Ramirez has never started against New York, allowing two runs over four innings in three relief appearances this year.

It could be an inopportune time for Chase Headley to return to the starting lineup after the third baseman sat out Wednesday since he is 0 for 9 off Ramirez.

"Head's kind of beat up, he needs a day off," Girardi said.

Tampa Bay (19-16) didn't take long to rally Wednesday, scoring once in the first inning and twice in the second. Asdrubal Cabrera got his 1,000th hit in the second.

''It's kind of special,'' Cabrera said. ''The big thing for me, we get a win, too.''

The Rays have held opponents to two or fewer runs in 18 games, most in the majors.

The Yankees scored two runs in the first inning when Chase Whitley (1-1, 3.06) earned a 4-2 home victory over the Rays on April 28, as he allowed one run in five innings in his season debut.

The right-hander also pitched well his next time out with seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 loss at Toronto on May 4 before he gave up five runs in 5 2-3 innings in Saturday's 6-2 defeat to Baltimore.

Cabrera is 3 for 4 against him, but Evan Longoria is 0 for 5.

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