In the first of seven meetings between the two teams over the next 11 days, Tampa took over sole possession of first place in the division on Monday with a thrilling win, as Reid Brignac homered off Sergio Mitre leading off the bottom of the 11th inning, propelling the Rays to a 1-0 win.
Brignac was a late inning replacement for Carl Crawford, who was ejected from the game in the ninth inning by home plate umpire Tom Hallion for arguing balls and strikes.
In the 11th, Brignac belted a 3-2 offering from Mitre (0-3) to right field to send Tampa Bay into first place by a half-game over the Yankees, who have lost a season-high four straight games, three of which have come in the walk-off variety.
It was the first homer for Brignac since July 25.
"It's an unbelievable feeling, like you're floating on clouds," Brignac said. "I had a couple walk-offs in the minor leagues, but nothing compared to this."
Each team had just four hits, thanks to incredible pitching performances from a pair of Cy Young Award hopefuls in New York's CC Sabathia and Tampa Bay's David Price. Sabathia, who leads the AL with 19 wins, fanned nine and walked two while allowing two hits over eight innings, as he threw 119 pitches. Price, a 17-game winner, scattered three hits, walked two and fanned four before departing after throwing 114 pitches over eight frames.
"It's tough because especially we've lost three out of four like this," Sabathia said. "It's been a tough road trip, but we've got a veteran ball club and we'll bounce back."
Tonight, the Yankees will rely on the right arm of 23-year-old rookie Ivan Nova, who is 1-0 and has pitched to a 2.92 in six appearances this season. Nova did not get a decision on Wednesday against Baltimore, but pitched well, as he allowed two runs and six hits in six innings of his team's 3-2 win.
This will be his first-ever start against the Rays.
Opposing Nova this evening will be right-hander Matt Garza, who will be trying to bounce back from an awful effort his last time out. Garza couldn't get out of the fifth inning on Wednesday in Boston, as he was roughed up for six runs and nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings, dropping him to 14-8 on the year to go along with a 3.68 ERA.
"I just went after them with heavy heaters like I usually do, and they just hit everything," Garza said. "They were sitting on breaking balls like they knew what was coming. You can't really knock them for that. I'm a fastball kind of guy and they sit on my fastball.
"Some days you burn, some days you get burned."
Garza is a mere 1-3 lifetime against the Yankees with a 3.49 ERA in 10 games, nine of which have been starts.
Tampa has won seven of its 12 meetings with the Yankees this season.