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Rays notes: Yankees winning without stars

Published:   |   Updated: May 24, 2013 at 12:22 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Here come the Yankees, as their theme song says, and for those who predicted an off year for the Bombers, well, they begin a three-game series tonight at Tropicana Field atop the division standings.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Rays 3B Evan Longoria said.

The Yankees are still missing some of their biggest stars — SS Derek Jeter, 3B Alex Rodriguez, LHP Andy Pettitte, 1B Mark Teixeira, 3B Kevin Youkilis, RHP Ivan Nova — and yet they’re still winning.

“That doesn’t take away from the fact that they have good players on their team, whether or not you know who they are, or if the common person could name them all,” Longoria said. “They are a team that’s playing as a team. They’ve figured out ways to win. They’ve been throwing the ball really well. Those are the teams that are really scary.”

The Yankees are in the middle of the pack offensively in the American League with a .248 batting average and 195 runs. Their pitching is setting the pace with the league’s second-best ERA at 3.58. Their 164 earned runs allowed are the fourth-fewest in the AL.

“They’ve brought some nice vets in there to do the job (offensively),” manager Joe Maddon said. “I think their pitching is why they’ve been so successful.”

And as their injured players return, Maddon still expects the Yankees pitching to control their fate.

“If their pitching holds up, they can,” Maddon said. “If it doesn’t they cannot, but I think it will.”

The Rays begin play tonight four games out first place, meaning the first four teams in the AL East are separated by four games.

“I think this division, although it’s shaken up right now and it’s probably not what everybody would have predicted the first day of the season, I think it’s going to be pretty similar to what people predict in the end,” Longoria said. “All the teams are going to be closely bunched up. The Red Sox have been scuffling a little bit, but they’re going to hang around. They’re not going anywhere. Their starting pitching is too good. And the Yankees, when they get healthy, they’re already playing tremendous as it is, when they get all of their guys back, it’s going to be chaos. And so it will be fun.”

The L&L Boys Longoria (.335) and 1B James Loney (.350) are the only pair of teammates in the major leagues hitting .330 or better. It the first time in team history that two Rays have hit .300 or better this deep into the season.

The M&C Boys LHP Matt Moore and RHP Alex Cobb are a combined 13-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Their combined 13 wins are the most of any teammates in baseball.

“It’s hard to differentiate between the two,” Maddon said.

The rest of the Rays staff has combined for an 11-19 record with a 5.13 ERA.

PED education clinic Saturday The Rays, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and Major League Baseball Charities will host PLAY — Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth — for kids 7 to 17 and their parents at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

The PLAY program educates young people about the dangers of steroids and promotes a healthy and active lifestyle. LHP David Price will attend the clinic.

To register, call (727) 825-3306.

Noteworthy Longoria is the first player in team history with a strikeout and a hit in nine consecutive games. He passed Jose Canseco for that dubious honor Wednesday. … A win Wednesday would have enabled the Rays to go 5-1 during a six-game road trip in two AL East cities for the first time in team history. … The Rays committed three errors in the three games in Toronto, bringing their season total to 21. At this point in 2012, they had committed 41 errors.

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