NEW YORK — Having split the first two games of a series they declared they had to win, the Rays say they feel pretty good about starting rookie LHP Matt Moore in today's matinee finale.
But Moore isn't sure exactly what he'll have when he takes the mound, at a bit of a loss to explain a noticeable drop in velocity during his last start, when he lasted a season-low four innings (though 94 pitches) against Baltimore on Tuesday.
"I was like 91-93 (mph, down from an average of 95)," Moore said. "I'm not 100 percent sure. I think sometimes you go through phases like that and it won't be there. … If it was like, Oh, it feels like it's not coming out right or my arm feels heavy or sore, that would be an issue to think maybe that's why. But my arm feels good. My entire body feels pretty good. I think it just might be a little dip there. We'll see how it goes (today)."
The Rays rearranged their rotation so Moore would make this start, and manager Joe Maddon said, "I like Matt pitching here."
S-ROD RETURNS: INF Sean Rodriguez returned to action, 20 days after fracturing a bone in his right hand punching a locker in frustration while at Triple A. He pinch-ran in the seventh then took over at third base, tested immediately when Curtis Granderson dropped a bunt and making a bare-handed play. "Felt good to be back," he said.
The Rays and Rodriguez are saying he also could hit, even though he has an appointment Monday to be checked by specialist Dr. Doug Carlan, but Maddon had Elliot Johnson pinch-hit for him in the ninth Saturday.
MORE MEDICAL: Evan Longoria "needed" to be the DH for a second straight day, a likely residual, Maddon said, of playing all 14 innings (eight at DH, six at third) on Thursday. … 2B Ryan Roberts returned to the lineup after missing Friday's game as a result of fouling a ball off his left shin Thursday.
PITCHING IN: LHP David Price said he felt "normal" the morning after his 105-pitch return to the mound Friday, having missed his previous start due to shoulder soreness. … RHPs Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson will face the Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday, but Maddon said they may drop in rookie RHP Chris Archer to provide extra rest for Price and/or RHP James Shields.
HOUSTON CALLING: Maddon said bench coach Dave Martinez, who interviewed last week for the Astros' managerial opening, would be a "great" fit. "Houston is an outstanding situation," he said. "Obviously if they chose him they'd make a great choice, and I so wish him well. We'd always hate to lose him, but that would be the evolution of his career. That ballpark and that city with their tradition fits perfect, and the fact that they're going to the American League, and his knowledge of the American League, I think would be very beneficial, too."
MISCELLANY: Shields extended his winless streak at Yankee Stadium to seven starts, with a 4.95 ERA. … Yankees RHP Ivan Nova improved to 5-1, 3.04 vs. the Rays, 4-0, 1.83 at home. … CF B.J. Upton didn't have much explanation for the eighth-inning line drive that eluded him: "Trust me, it did something that it wasn't supposed to do." … LHP Jake McGee's streak of 22 batters retired ended with a Robinson Cano double.