ST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP David Price has been dominant against every team in the American League East, but he admits he reaches back for a little bit extra against the Yankees.
"That just happens," Price said. "Whenever you're pitching against the pinstripes, you have a little more. That's how it is, that's just from their success forever in baseball."
The Rays get their first look at the Yankees this season when they begin a two-game series tonight at Tropicana Field.
It's the only two games Tampa Bay plays against New York in the first 97 days of the season. But the AL East rivals meet 16 times in the final 84 days, including five of their last eight games.
"I just want to see what the pulse of their team is right now, just check them out for (myself)," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But again, it's a two-game series, it's going to be rather quick, but it still would be nice to do well against them here."
The Rays have their best going against the Yankees as Price (5-3, 3.12) will be matched against RHP A.J. Burnett (4-2, 3.38) tonight, and RHP James Shields (4-1, 2.08) opposes New York RHP Ivan Nova (3-3, 4.70) on Tuesday.
Price is 19-4 lifetime against the AL East, the best record by any active pitcher against any division (with a minimum of 20 starts).
Maddon says he hopes Price approaches tonight's game like the start of any other series.
"What he's been doing is perfectly acceptable against anybody," Maddon said. "I think there's always a concern or a threat if you tried to do that, you could actually go backward. I'd rather he approach it as a regular game, do his regular pre-game routine and not worry about what it's going to mean."
FULD INJURY: LF Sam Fuld is expected to play tonight despite having to leave Sunday's 9-3 loss to the Orioles in the seventh inning with a cut lip. Fuld received two stitches after colliding with the leg of Orioles SS J.J. Hardy during a failed steal attempt.
"First I was disappointed I was thrown out," Fuld said. "Then I was kind of upset blood was drooling down my face. I got a little nauseous there, but once I got some blood back to my head … and the stitches were fine, so everything is good.
"As long as I can tolerate the drool, I'll be okay."
MILESTONE HOMER: Rays reserve INF Elliot Johnson hit 75 home runs in the 876 games he played in the minors. But his first major-league homer came Sunday against the Orioles when he blasted a solo shot in the third inning off starter Jake Arrieta. Johnson went 2-for-4 with an infield single.
"It's nice. It's been a long time coming, and I've been looking for it and working for it for a long time, so I'm glad it could come," Johnson said. "I wish it would've been in a winning effort, but it's a homer and it's my first one. I'll always remember it."
MISCELLANY: Matt Joyce hit his first career home run off a left-hander in his 67th at-bat. The lefty-hitting rightfielder has 30 homers against right-handers in 540 at-bats. He went 2-for-3 to boost his average to .368 but dropped to second in the AL behind Toronto's Jose Bautista. … In their past six home games, the Rays are 7-for-35 with runners in scoring position. … The Rays lost consecutive games for the first time since April 21. … LHP J.P. Howell will make another rehab appearance in Triple-A Durham today and is expected to pitch more than one inning. If all goes well, he will rejoin the Rays Thursday in Toronto. … The Rays have committed a major league-low 14 errors and are the only team not to have a multi-error game. … Ben Zobrist is tied for second in the majors in extra-base hits with 23 and runs scored with 31. Both are behind Bautista.