It turns out returning to Tropicana Field may have been exactly what the Rays needed to jump-start their season.
The Rays will look to build off their weekend sweep of the Athletics when they continue their homestand against the Yankees. After going 2-7 on a nine-game trip to fall to 5-10, Tampa Bay took three straight from Oakland to start its six-game homestand. It also doesn't hurt that Tampa Bay has won 11 of the last 13 meetings with the Yanks in St. Petersburg.
The Rays will look to keep both streaks going on Monday when they turn to red-hot Matt Moore in a southpaw showdown against Yankees ace CC Sabathia.
Moore is off to a 3-0 start with a 1.00 ERA through three starts in just his second full season in the Majors. Though the Yankees still have a number of stars on the disabled list, Moore knows it won't be easy to silence a Yankees club that comes in having won its last four series.
"They're playing really well," Moore said. "Obviously they have a lot of key players out of their lineup, so the fact that they're still playing well means that they have that stuff that teams get when their big guys do go down, where they just step up. They're definitely going to be a battle coming in here. We're looking forward to getting back on track like we've been the last couple days."
It won't be an easy task against Sabathia, who has won three consecutive starts after a disappointing season debut. However, despite the ace's 1.57 ERA in those three victories, there has been some concern over his dip in velocity.
In Wednesday's outing against the D-backs, his fastball again hovered mostly around 90 mph, topping out at 91. Sabathia hopes to get his fastball back to its usual 92-93 mph range, but he's fully prepared to continue stifling hitters even if it doesn't.
"It's reality. You never know," Sabathia said. "I've never been through anything like this, so I don't know. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I've been pitching for a long time. Eventually, it was going to happen.
"I'm hoping some more velocity comes back. If not, we'll work with this."
Just 23, Moore knows he will eventually face more obstacles like the one facing Sabathia. For now, he's content on just riding out his own hot streak and trying to help his team extend its streak.
"I'm going to struggle again at some point throughout my career," Moore said. "It's going to be where I can't find that release point or that command is not there and you're going to have to battle that night. I've been there before, and with the way I'm feeling right now, it's nice just to have that feeling that you've kind of got something figured out for the time being."
Yankees: Youkilis battling tight back
Though Kevin Youkilis said his back felt good enough to play Sunday, manager Joe Girardi held the third baseman out of the starting lineup as a precaution.
Youkilis left Saturday's game against the Blue Jays in the sixth inning with lower back tightness. Girardi said he had already planned to rest the 34-year-old for a game during the three-game set in Toronto because of the turf at Rogers Centre. Youkilis' status for Monday's series opener -- on the Tropicana Field turf -- is up in the air.
"I just want to try to clear it up if we can," Girardi said. "It's good that he feels a lot better, that's a positive thing for us."
Youkilis is hitting .295 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 16 games.
Rays: Scott likely to start rehab assignment soon
Luke Scott is on the verge of starting a rehab assignment either Monday or Tuesday, marking the final step of the process as he works to return from a strained right calf.
Scott, on the disabled list since March 31, ran the bases at full speed, went through several running drills and took batting practice Sunday morning at Tropicana Field. He's simply waiting on clearance from trainer Ron Porterfield before starting his assignment, which will likely come with Class A Advanced Port Charlotte.
"It's been a long process and a testing of patience, but I've been disciplined in not trying to push it too much and listen to my body," Scott said on Sunday. "It's been a little stubborn at times, but I like where I'm at. Today was a good day."
• Evan Longoria is 14-for-39 (.359) with five home runs lifetime against Sabathia. Only Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano has more career homers (six) off the southpaw.
• Moore's first career start came against the Yankees on Sept. 22, 2011, when he tossed five shutout innings and recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts for his first big league victory.
• Sgt. Michael Nicholson, a triple-amputee Marines veteran, will throw out Monday's ceremonial first pitch. Nicholson lost both his legs and his right arm when an improvised explosive device went off on July 6, 2011, while he was serving in Afghanistan.