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Rays notes: Yankees begin three-game series at Trop

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Published:   |   Updated: April 22, 2013 at 11:10 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Tampa Bay Rays begin a three-game series tonight at Tropicana Field against the New York Yankees, who are in second place in the AL East.

LHP Matt Moore (3-0, 1.00 ERA) will face CC Sabathia (3-1, 2.57). Game time is 7:10 p.m.

SS Derek Jeter, CF Curtis Granderson, 1B Mark Teixeira and 3B Alex Rodriguez are all on the disabled list for New York. Also, 3B Kevin Youkilis did not play Sunday because of lower back tightness.

Still, the Yankees have won five of their past seven, and 2B Robinson Cano, DH Travis Hafner and LF Vernon Wells are among the league leaders in home runs with five each.

“They don't have their typically good guys, but they have other good guys,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Their acquisitions have been playing very well for them and they're good baseball players, too. I think the big thing for them with me was how are they going to pitch? And if they pitch well they're still going to score enough runs to win.”

Escobar's bat coming alive SS Yunel Escobar said before a game last week in Baltimore that he was working hard and hoped the work would pay off in more production at the plate. It did Sunday, when he had three hits and fell a triple shy of his first career cycle.

Escobar homered, doubled and singled and drove in two runs in the Rays' 8-1 victory against the A's.

“Since last year you see some hitters go through some struggles sometimes,” Escobar said through Joel Peralta, who served as his translator. “I'm trying to get better because I want to help this team win games.”

In five games since being dropped to the ninth spot in the batting order April 17, Escobar has hit .333 (6-for-18) after hitting .089 (4-for-45) in his first 13 games.

“He continues to grind it out,” Maddon
said. “You got to appreciate his approach to the day. Things had not been going well for him offensively, but he's still been playing a complete game and he plays with enthusiasm.”

Escobar is the only Ray to have played every inning of every game this season. His last three-hit game was Sept. 23, 2012, at Tropicana Field while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Scott ready to play DH Luke Scott (right calf strain) ran the bases and participated in other running drills Sunday morning and pronounced himself ready to begin a minor-league rehab assignment.

“I'm ready to take the next step,” he said.

The final hurdle will be how well Scott's calf feels today. If it feels well, Scott will begin a minor-league rehab stint Tuesday with Class A Charlotte.

The Rays won't place a timetable on Scott's return, because he hasn't played since late March and needs to get his swing in order.

“Basically I need to get on the fastball,” Scott said. “If I can get on the fastball I'll be ready.”

Pick a card Illusionist Geoff Williams from St. Pete Beach entertained the Rays before the game with some magic tricks.

“It's about just keeping the guys ready,” Maddon said. “Keeping the guys loose.”

Maddon, who had a DJ play in the clubhouse before Saturday's win, said he has something planned for this afternoon.

A rare win Saturday's victory was the seventh time in team history the Rays won 1-0 with the run scoring on a home run, this time by Matt Joyce. The other six were Fred McGriff at New York Yankees (May 11, 2000), Steve Cox at Toronto (Sept. 23, 2001), Travis Lee at Cleveland (Aug. 14, 2005), Carlos Peņa vs. Toronto (Aug. 27, 2008), Evan Longoria vs. Kansas City (May 2, 2010) and Reid Brignac vs. New York Yankees (Sept. 13, 2010).

Noteworthy Sgt. Michael Nicholson, a triple-amputee Marine veteran, will deliver the ceremonial first pitch before tonight's game against the Yankees. Sgt. Nicholson lost both legs and his right arm from an IED on July 6, 2011, while serving in Afghanistan. … Longoria, who reached on an E-9 in his first at-bat, has reached base safely in all 18 games this season and 32 straight since last season. Rocco Baldelli reached base during the first 24 games in 2003 and Jorge Cantu reached base in the first 20 games in 2005. … The Rays had a season-high six extra-base hits Sunday. … 2B Ryan Roberts had his second multihit game of the series. … The Rays were outscored 7-1 during the first inning of their first 12 games. They have outscored opponents 11-3 in the first innings of their past six games. … The Rays' bullpen allowed only one hit in 6 2/3 innings during the series.

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