(Sports Network) - Alex Rodriguez's quest to become the youngest player in baseball history with 600 home runs takes him to St. Petersburg where the New York Yankees open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Rodriguez remained stuck at 599 on Thursday, but drove in three runs while both Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson added two RBI in the Yankees' 11-4 win over Cleveland. Robinson Cano homered and Francisco Cervelli also drove in a run for the Yankees, who took three of four in the set at Progressive Field and have won 17 of 22 overall.
The Yankees enter this series with a two-game lead on the Rays in the American League East.
"We're playing good baseball, winning baseball," said Rodriguez, who will become the seventh player to reach the milestone. "The thing to remember is that when I hit (my 600th home run), nothing is going to change. We're just trying to play good baseball."
Rodriguez, who was 3-for-17 in the series with the Indians, should still easily become the youngest player to reach the milestone. Babe Ruth hit his 600th at age 36, while Rodriguez turned 35 on Tuesday.
Ruth may have reached the milestone quicker, hitting No. 600 in his 6,921st at-bat, but Rodriguez's pace (8,671 at-bats entering play Friday) trails only that of Barry Bonds (8,212) and eclipses Willie Mays (9,514) and Henry Aaron (10,009).
However, his 30 at-bats between home runs is the longest drought between homers 599 and 600 of the six other members in the club.
Taking the ball for New York in the opener tonight will be righty Phil Hughes, who has won two of his last three starts. Hughes improved to 12-3 on Sunday against Kansas City, as he allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Hughes, though, has given up 15 runs in his four July starts and has seen his earned run average balloon to 4.04.
He is 2-1 in seven games (two starts) against the Rays with a 4.20 ERA.
Tampa, meanwhile, has won six in a row after a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers that culminated with a 4-2 win on Thursday. Carlos Pena went 3-for-4 with a home run and drove in all of Tampa Bay's runs, while David Price picked up his AL-best 14th victory after limiting the Tigers to two runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Price allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out nine for the Rays and matched the team record for victories in a season, shared by James Shields (2008), Edwin Jackson (2008) and Rolando Arrojo (1998).
"He's having a tremendous year," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "He's pitched about as good as anybody has this year in the major leagues. He's been consistent for the most part all year. He's been a guy we can lean on when we need a stop or when we need a win. That's huge."
Tampa has won 19 of its 25 games since June 30 and is a season-best 25 games over .500. At the 100-game mark, the club is eight games ahead of last season and three ahead of its 2008 pace when it captured the American League pennant.
Going for Tampa tonight will be 25-year-old righty Wade Davis, who is 8-9 with a 4.32 ERA. Davis won his third straight start on Sunday in Cleveland, holding the Indians to a pair of runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Davis, who has given up one home run in three at-bats to A-Rod, beat the Yankees back on May 19 and is 1-2 in three starts against them with a 4.86 ERA.
These teams have split their eight matchups this season.