Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields reacts after retiring the New York Yankees in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays defeated the Yankees 4-3. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Here we go Rays fans, let’s get psyched. Why? Entering tonight’s game, the Rays are only 2.5 games behind the AL East leading New York Yankees. Tampa Bay and Baltimore are primed to move up a notch with wins both this evening and tomorrow night. In an ideal (ahem, ideal for us that is) world, Baltimore and Tampa Bay could find themselves at the top of the heap in the east, by the time the AL West leading Texas Rangers mosey in to town Friday.

The win a day prior was huge. Sure, a superficial glance at the score only is deceptive. But another low scoring, lackluster Rays game it was not. Tampa Bay fought hard in what easily felt like a post-season game. Racking up the hits and continuously applying pressure to a frugal Yankees team, the Rays were finally able to nail the coffin shut thanks to Chris Gimenez who handed the Yankees their 19th loss since July 25th on an eighth inning, two out RBI single which drove Ryan Roberts home.

The Rays have had a hard time getting hits throughout the course of the season. They’ve had an even harder time making those hits count. However, they’ve (knock on wood) seemingly finally turned that corner, doing what they do best: pitching, defense, and getting those timely hits. It should be noted that Tampa Bay 12-8 in their last 20 games when they’ve accrued seven or more hits in the course of a game. Yesterday was no different. Sure they were 2-9 wRISP yesterday, and that’s not pretty in the least, but they certainly didn’t roll over and play dead. Tampa Bay had base runners in every inning but the seventh, continually applying the pressure until they were ultimately able to break through.

And that brings us to tonight’s match-up. The Rays look to extend their current winning streak to four, while keeping pressure on a faltering Yankees team. Tampa Bay is now 9-1 against the Yankees at the Trop, extending back to last season, and it should also be noted that the Bronx Bummers held a 10 game lead in the AL East just a month an a half ago.

Rays 9/4/12 Starting Lineup:

Jennings LF
Upton CF
Zobrist SS
Longoria DH
Joyce RF
Keppinger 3B
Pena 1B
Roberts 2B
Molina C
Cobb RHP

Noteworthiness: Evan Longoria, who was pulled from the game in the seventh inning yesterday, will DH today finding Jeff Keppinger handling the hot corner and hitting sixth. Joe Maddon made the decision after Longoria started the last three games straight among other things. Carlos Peña will get the start at first, hitting seventh. Nope, Luke Scott isn’t in the lineup. I assume he’ll be busy regaling the dugout with stories of hunting pigs and listening to the Nuge. Oh to be a fly on the wall… Joe Maddon mentioned today that the tiny dancer, Jeff Niemann, will undergo further testing on shoulder soon, saying “I don’t anticipate him pitching anytime soon.” Could this be the end of the tall RHP tenure with the Rays?

Oh yeah, the Bucs are having a hard time selling out their home opener. Even the Rays sold out their first three home games. I guess the Bucs should move to St. Pete…at least they’d fill 73% of the stadium.

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