Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Yankees ride four game winning streak into Tampa to face the Rays

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The New York Yankees are clicking on all cylinders right now. The Bombers have won four straight heading into tonight’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

They’re coming off of a day-night doubleheader sweep of the Chicago Cubs yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

Masahiro Tanaka struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings to help the Yanks win Game 1, 3-0, then Michael Pineda shut down the Cubs by tossing six shutout innings in the 2-0 win in the nightcap.

For those who like to pay attention to the division standings early in the season, the Yankees hold a 1/2 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East heading into Thursday night’s matchup.

(Personally, though, I don’t take much away from the standing until at least May.)

Here are some things to watch for in this four game series with the Rays:

Troubles at the Trop: Thursday night’s start will mark CC Sabathia’s 18th career start at Tropicana Field, a place that he’s never had much success at in his career.

Sabathia is 3-8 in those 17 starts with a 4.38 ERA, and has also given up 17 homeruns in 115 innings.

What stands about more about his stats against the Rays in general, is that he’ll be facing David Price tonight for the 10th time in his career, oddly enough. We don’t know how it continues to happen, but the two Cy Young pitchers will get another look at each other.

Since signing with the Yankees as a free agent before the 2009 season, Sabathia has won just four of his 23 starts against Tampa Bay.

Sabathia is still trying to get into a groove to start the season. He looked really good in the first five innings of his last start against the Boston Red Sox, but ran in trouble when he have up a pair of homeruns to put the Yankees down in the game, which they eventually lost.

“I just haven’t been able to put a whole game together,” Sabathia told reporters after the game. “I’m pitching well at times, but I need to be able to stay even-keeled and make pitches in big situations like that. I was just frustrated and kind of rushed through and left a pitch hanging.”

Beltran belts another: Carlos Beltran hit his fourth homerun of the season in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader; it was his third homerun in his last five games.

He was named the AL Player of the Week on Monday, and hasn’t slowed down since. He’s hit three homeruns in the past five games, and now has four on the season, while batting .327.

Some people questioned the Yankees’ signing of Beltran during the offseason because they already had five outfielders are the time he was signed, but in really this was a pretty good signing for the Yankees, as his swing was made for the right porch at Yankee Stadium, as we have seen already this season.

Injury updates: Mark Teixeira made his first rehab start today in an extended spring training game at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa. He played three innings at first base, and went 0-for-1 with a strikeouts and two walks.

He will be eligible to come off of the 15-day DL on Sunday after sitting out the past couple of weeks with a Grade 1 hamstring strain.

David Robertson threw 25 pitches off the mound today, and everything went well. He is hopefully to pitch in a minor-league game on Saturday, and can come off the DL on Tuesday in Boston.

Brian Roberts is feeling much better and is getting over his lower back injury. He’s in the lineup tonight for the first time since Sunday and will be playing second base.

Pitching matchups:

Tonight: LHP CC Sabathia (1-2, 6.63) vs. LHP David Price (2-0, 2.91) — 7:10 p.m., YES Network

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00) — 7:10 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94) vs. RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50) — 7:10 p.m., YES Network

Sunday: TBA vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50) — 1:40 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

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Tags: Major League Baseball MLB New York Yankees

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