Rays set to 'host' Yankees in New York

NEW YORK -- There is no escaping how weird it will be for the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees to play three Rays "home games" at Citi Field, which is usually occupied by the Yankees' crosstown rival, the New York Mets.

However, Mets manager Terry Collins knows it won't be as odd for the teams, particularly the Rays, as it was the last time the Mets' home stadium hosted a Yankees game.

Citi Field will be the site of a regular-season game not involving the Mets for the first time ever on Monday night, when the Rays and Yankees square off in the opener of a three-game series originally scheduled to take place at Tropicana Field before the set was relocated due to Hurricane Irma.

Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (8-7, 4.58 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.91).

While there is plenty at stake in the standings -- certainly more than on April 15, 1998, when the Yankees hosted Collins' Anaheim Angels at Shea Stadium after a 500-pound beam fell at Yankee Stadium -- Odorizzi acknowledged it would be difficult to concentrate after the Tampa area was hammered by Hurricane Irma.

"I'm more worried about the off-field things than with the circumstances at the game," Odorizzi said Sunday. "Whoever shows up, that's fantastic. But I think a lot of people's focus is back home instead of New York."

Both teams won Sunday to improve their positioning in the American League wild-card races. The Yankees (77-65) routed the host Texas Rangers 16-7 to extend their lead over the Minnesota Twins in the race for the first AL wild card to 3 1/2 games.

New York also trails the first-place Boston Red Sox by 3 1/2 games in the AL East.

"This time of year, you need to win series," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after New York took two of three from the Rangers. "If we're going to accomplish what we want to accomplish, we need to do that, especially with the teams we're playing that are behind us."

The visiting Rays (71-73) beat the Red Sox 4-1 to climb within 3 1/2 games of the Twins for the second wild card.

"Look, I'm not comparing us to the Cleveland Indians," Rays manager Kevin Cash said hours before the Indians extended their winning streak to 18 games Sunday night. "But if we go on a streak, with all the teams that are grouped in here, and went on a good run against the teams we're playing, we're going to find ourselves in an OK spot. We've got to do it."

Citi Field won't be an entirely unfamiliar venue to the players this week. The Yankees are less than four weeks removed from playing a two-game interleague series against the host Mets.

Only one current member of the Rays, third baseman Evan Longoria, was on the team when it last played at Citi Field in 2009. However, several likely starters have experience at Citi Field from their times with other teams, including Logan Morrison, Corey Dickerson, Wilson Ramos and, most notably, Lucas Duda, who spent his entire career with the Mets before being traded to Tampa Bay on July 26.

Duda's 71 homers at Citi Field are the most by any player.

"We were uncomfortable because we had never played (at Shea)," Collins said of his Angels squad. "It played different. It's a whole different game."

But the Yankees will still have one big advantage.

"The subways go in a lot of directions around here," Collins said with a grin, "so they're going to be able to put some people in the seats here."

Odorizzi is coming off one of the best starts of his career last Tuesday, when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh against the Twins and earned the win after allowing one hit over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.

Sabathia didn't factor into the decision last Tuesday after surrendering five runs over 5 1/3 innings as the Yankees fell 7-6 to the Orioles in Baltimore.

Odorizzi is 5-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Yankees. Sabathia is 16-14 with a 3.80 ERA in 44 career starts against the Rays, whom he has faced more than any other opponent.
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