(Sports Network) - The battle for AL East supremacy -- as well as the watch for Alex Rodriguez's 600th career home run -- continues tonight at Tropicana Field as the Tampa Bay Rays send out Matt Garza for the first time since his no-hitter to face the first-place New York Yankees.
The red-hot Rays, who have won seven games in a row, are now just a game back of the Yankees in the race for the division crown thanks to last night's 3-2 victory in front of a playoff-type atmosphere in the opener of this three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Rays starter Wade Davis (9-9) gave up a two-run homer to Nick Swisher in the first inning, but shut the Yankees down for the rest of his seven-inning start. He picked up his fourth straight winning start when Matt Joyce blasted a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
"Matt came up with a big hit," Rays second baseman Reid Brignac said of the pivotal homer. "We were kind of scurrying around for hits ... Luckily Matty J found one on the barrel."
Phil Hughes (12-4) gave up Joyce's homer and took the loss for the Yankees. That home run was one of only four hits given up in six innings by Hughes, who also walked two and fanned six.
Tampa has won five of its nine meetings with New York so far this season.
"We understand these aren't end of the world games, but they are important in our division," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, remained stuck on 599 career home runs after going 0- for-4. It has been eight games since he hit No. 599 on July 22 against Kansas City as he aims to become the seventh player in league history to join the 600-homer club.
Rodriguez 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.
Rodriguez is 7-for-15 lifetime with one homer versus Garza, who threw the first no-hitter in Tampa Bay history on Monday versus the Tigers. He fanned six and walked one batter in the gem, improving to 11-5 on the season with a 4.06 ERA.
Garza has yet to face the Yankees this season and is 1-3 lifetime against New York with a 3.26 ERA.
Javier Vazquez will get the ball for the Yanks tonight, and he certainly has room to improve a modest 4.54 ERA that accompanies his 9-7 record. Vazquez has only allowed 92 hits in 107 innings, but he has been touched for 18 home runs. He beat Cleveland on Monday by allowing just two earned runs on five hits in seven innings.
Vazquez was crushed in his only previous meeting with the Rays this season, surrendering eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He is 5-5 lifetime against Tampa with a 4.94 ERA.
Help should also be on the way for Rodriguez and company. The Yankees acquired outfielder Austin Kearns from the Indians last night and they also finalized their deal with Houston to acquire Lance Berkman from the Astros.
Berkman is expected to become the Yankees' full-time designated hitter after batting .245 in 85 games this season with 13 homers and 49 RBI following knee surgery in March.