With three games remaining in the season, the Tampa Bay Rays sit just one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the American League Wildcard spot, and open the season's final series Monday evening against the AL East champion New York Yankees.
The Rays aren't leaving anything to chance, sending staff ace James Shields (team-best 2.84 ERA, 15 wins) to the hill Monday night. Shields is no stranger to the Yankees, having pitched 30 innings over four starts against them this season. Despite allowing just eight runs over those innings for a 2.40 ERA, Shields owns a 1-3 record against New York on the season.
In contrast to the Rays' starting the steady Shields, New York will turn to Hector Noesi, a 24-year-old rookie making just the second start of his career. His first start came last Wednesday against the Rays, who hung chased him in the third inning after he yielded two runs on four hits; New York went on to win the game, 4-2. In three relief appearances against Tampa Bay this season, Noesi yielded just three hits and two walks in six innings, albeit in situations with much lower leverage.
Shields ought to have the decisive edge over his rookie opponent, but given the poor run support the Rays have given him versus New York--just six runs in four starts, including a no-run outing in which he gave up just one unearned run in eight innings--it's hard to predict just how the evening will proceed.
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