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A Bronx Fail: Rays haven’t fared well at Yankee Stadium while atop AL East

For the first time in six years, Tampa Bay heads to the Bronx while leading the division. Things haven’t always gone smoothly.

It’s not exactly pennant fever — we haven’t even reached Memorial Day, for crying out loud — but the Rays are embarking on an important three-game series that starts Friday night in the Bronx against the Yankees.

If you don’t count early April encounters, it’s the first time the Rays will play in Yankee Stadium while sitting atop the American League East since 2013.

As you might have guessed, the Bronx has not always been kind.

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It’s not just that the Rays have lost more games at Yankee Stadium (both old and new combined) than any other ballpark, it’s that they’ve struggled in New York, even during good seasons.

Here are the six times Tampa Bay has played at Yankee Stadium while tied or leading the AL East after April.

Problem with Pettitte

The Rays' Carlos Pena hits a sixth-inning, solo home run off New York Yankees pitcher Sidney Ponson in a July 9, 2008 game, but it wasn't enough to propel Tampa Bay to victory. [AP Photo/Kathy Willens]

Date: July 8, 2008

Arrived: Up 4 games on Red Sox

Departed: Up 2 games on Red Sox

The Rays seemed to be Andy Pettitte’s personal whipping boys. He went 17-8 against Tampa Bay in his career. Only Tim Wakefield and Mike Mussina have ever won more games against the Rays. In the series opener, Pettitte went eight shutout innings for a 5-0 New York victory. The Yankees swept the two-game series the following day despite a solo homer from Carlos Peña. New York’s Bobby Abreu doubled home Derek Jeter in the 10th for a 2-1 walkoff victory.

Shields, Longoria not enough

The Rays' James Shields pitches against the New York Yankees during the first game of a day-night doubleheader on September 13, 2008 at Yankee Stadium. The Rays defeated the Yankees 7-1. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Date: Sept. 12, 2008

Arrived: Up 2½ games on Red Sox

Departed: Up 1 game on Red Sox

The Rays were coming in on a high, having beaten the Red Sox two out of three in Boston to increase their lead. Friday’s game was rained out so they played a Saturday doubleheader. The Rays took the opener 7-1 with Evan Longoria getting two RBIs in his first appearance after missing 30 games with a broken wrist and James Shields pitching eight shutout innings. It was the last high note of the weekend. New York won the second game 6-5 and Sunday’s series finale 8-4.

Zo-Rilla terrorizes ‘The City’

The Rays' Ben Zobrist starred in the field and at the plate to lead Tampa Bay to a critical sweep of the Yankees in 2010. [AP Photo/Kathy Willens]

Date: May 19, 2010

Arrived: Up 3 games on Yankees

Departed: Up 5 games on Yankees

Playing rightfield and second base, Ben Zobrist went 4-for-6 with four RBIs and two walks in a two-game sweep of New York. The Yankees would eventually catch the Rays in June, and the two teams battled all summer. The Rays eventually won the division by one game.

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Drive down the Price

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price winds up against the New York Yankees in the sixth inning during their baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, May 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) NYY112

Date: May 8, 2012

Arrived: Tied with Orioles

Departed: Tied with Orioles

The Rays held the Yankees to 11 runs in three games but still lost two out of three. New York won the opener and had a 1-0 lead with one out in the ninth of the second game before B.J. Upton tied it with a sacrifice fly and Matt Joyce followed with a three-run homer. David Price blew a 2-0 lead in the series finale as the Yankees won 5-3.

This guy again?

New York Yankees starterr Andy Pettitte pitches during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in New York on June 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Date: June 5, 2012

Arrived: Up 1 game on Orioles

Departed: Tied with Orioles

The Yankees were in third place, 1½ games behind, when the series began. Between Pettitte and Ivan Nova, the Rays were scoreless through the first 17 innings of the series. Tampa Bay lost the first two games and briefly fell out of first. They won the finale 7-3 to briefly regain the division lead but, four days later, fell out of first place for good.

Rays roll with help from Archer

Chris Archer (22) of the Rays celebrates his 1-0, complete-game victory against the New York Yankees with teammate David Price (14) at Yankee Stadium on July 27, 2013. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Date: July 26, 2013

Arrived: A half-game behind Red Sox

Departed: A half-game behind Red Sox

The Rays came to New York after winning 19 of 22 games to go from seven behind Boston to a half-game. They beat CC Sabathia in the opener to move into first, and Chris Archer pitched a two-hit shutout to win the second game 1-0. They dropped back to second after Jake McGee gave up a walkoff single to Alfonso Soriano to lose the series finale 6-5.