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News » Rays-Yankees Preview 2009-05-06

Rays-Yankees Preview 2009-05-06

Rays-Yankees Preview 2009-05-06
Early slumps from B.J. Upton and Dioner Navarro have played a role in the slow start by the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays.

While both players showed signs of emerging from their funks in their last game, they could have a hard time continuing to do so against A.J. Burnett and the New York Yankees.

Upton and Navarro look to build on strong performances at the plate and end their struggles against the Yankees as the AL East rivals open a two-game series Wednesday night in New York.

Tampa Bay (12-16) has had a hard time living up to expectations after reaching the World Series last season, in part because Upton and Navarro are batting .157 and .179, respectively.

Upton managed to end the longest hitless streak of his career with an RBI double in the seventh inning of the Rays' 6-3 win over Baltimore on Tuesday. He had gone 20 at-bats without a hit and had five in his last 53 at-bats.

"It's been a long time coming," Upton told the Rays' official Web site. "So far I've come up in some situations where I've felt like I needed to get a hit and I haven't. Obviously, I've been struggling and, obviously, the way we're playing right now, I don't think it's up to anybody's standards. I think all of us in this clubhouse feel like we can do better."

Navarro did his part Tuesday as well, going 2-for-3 with two runs to snap out of a 5-for-46 slide.

"I know my numbers don't show it, but I've been feeling good at the plate," said Navarro, an All-Star last season. "It's huge to know I contributed."

Neither player had much success in Tampa Bay's first series against New York (13-13). Upton was 2-for-11 with six strikeouts and Navarro went 2-for-8 and struck out three times as the Rays dropped two of three from April 13-15.

Both have had problems against Burnett (2-0, 5.40 ERA) as well. Upton is 4-for-18 (.222) with 10 strikeouts versus the right-hander while Navarro is 4-for-23 (.174) and has struck out six times.

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has been hitting all season, batting .365 with eight homers and a major league-best 34 RBIs, but he's 2-for-13 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Burnett.

Burnett gave up four runs in seven innings of New York's 7-4 win over Los Angeles on Thursday. He's 8-4 with a 2.94 ERA in 17 starts against the Rays, the most recent a 7-2 road victory April 14.

Burnett limited Tampa Bay to two runs and three hits while striking out nine over eight innings of that contest.

New York will be counting on a similar performance from him as it tries to end a three-game skid. All the losses came at Yankee Stadium.

"It's not any fun, that's for sure. It's frustrating," manager Joe Girardi said after a 7-3 defeat to Boston on Tuesday night dropped his team to 6-5 at home. "It's not the way you want to start the season, but it's where we are. We've got to do something about it."

Andy Sonnanstine (1-3, 6.75) will get the ball for the Rays, who lost the right-hander's first four starts before coming through with a 6-2 win over the Red Sox on Friday. Sonnanstine gave up two runs over 5 2-3 innings for his first victory in 12 starts since Aug. 18.

Sonnanstine is 2-1 with a 5.65 ERA in five starts versus the Yankees.

New York placed All-Star catcher Jorge Posada on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a hamstring strain. Jose Molina took over as the starter against Boston and went 1-for-3 with a run. He's a .292 hitter in 33 career games against the Rays.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 6, 2009

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