MLB

Rays-Yankees Preview

The bullpens for the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees have traded blown leads this weekend.

Fortunately for the Yankees, they have emerged victorious both times and will go for a home sweep Sunday by trying to hand the Rays an eighth straight defeat.

There's been plenty of late-inning drama in the Bronx in this series. Tampa Bay (42-41) took a three-run lead into the eighth inning in Friday's opener before Mark Teixeira hit a three-run homer. The Rays scored twice in the top of the 12th only to allow four in the bottom half with Brian McCann hitting a winning three-run homer.

The next day, New York (44-37) blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning when Steven Souza Jr. hit a tying homer off Dellin Betances. The Yankees prevailed in the bottom half when pinch-runner Jose Pirela scored on an error by reliever Brad Boxberger.

The Yankees have posted consecutive walk-off wins for the first time since Sept. 21-22, 2012, against Oakland. They lead the AL East by two games and have finished first 31 of 42 times they had sole possession of first after play on Independence Day.

''It doesn't matter if we're six or seven games over .500,'' center fielder Brett Gardner said. ''What matters is we're in first place.''

The Yankees haven't swept a home series from the Rays since taking four games Sept. 7-9, 2009.

Teixeira has driven in five runs in this series and leads the AL with 59 RBIs.

''It seems like the Tex from three, four, five years ago,'' Gardner said.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is enduring its longest losing streak since a 10-game slide May 26-June 5, 2014. The Rays are batting .182 while totaling 18 runs in this slide.

They will try to end those woes when they face Ivan Nova (1-1, 1.50 ERA), who is 0-4 with a 4.60 ERA in his last five starts against the Rays.

James Loney is 6 for 12 against the right-hander and Evan Longoria is 9 for 30 with three homers.

Nova gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings Tuesday in a 2-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels, his second start since returning after elbow surgery.

Tampa Bay's Erasmo Ramirez (6-3, 4.01) is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his last four road starts with a 1.13 ERA in his last six outings overall.

Ramirez was charged with one run in 5 2-3 innings and suffered a 6-2 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday after the Rays won his previous five outings.

The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA against New York this year in four appearances - one start. The Yankees are batting .074 against him.

Souza went 2 for 4 after entering Saturday hitless in 25 at-bats. Loney was 2 for 4 in his second game back after being out since May 24 with a broken finger.

One bright spot for Tampa Bay is Grady Sizemore, who is 9 for 25 with the club after being released by Philadelphia at the start of June.

The Yankees have taken eight of 12 matchups.

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