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Yankees vs. Rays game preview: The battle for first place begins

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Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Back before the season started, many wouldn't have guessed that the Yankees and Rays would be at the top of the AL East, but we're one-plus month into the year and here we are. Right now the Yankees are three games up on the Rays for the division lead. The Yankees are currently tied with the Astros for the best record in the American League, and while Tampa Bay is second in the division, they are also only two games over .500–evidence as to how mediocre the AL East has become.

While the Yankees have gotten hot over the last few weeks, the Rays have only gotten hurt as they've lost Alex Cobb to Tommy John surgery and Drew Smyly to a labrum tear. Tonight they send out Alex Colome, who looks to maybe be their next big young pitcher to come out of the system. He's already off to a solid start after collecting 10 strikeouts and allowing only two runs in 10 innings pitched, so he should give the Yankee lineup a challenge.

With CC Sabathia on the mound, the team has less of a margin for error, so things are going to have to go pretty well for them today. The team's former ace has gotten off to a rough start in 2015. At this point we can expect him to get hit pretty hard fairly often and all we can hope for is that the ball finds a glove. The Yankees were able to make it through his May 1 start against the Red Sox when he only allowed two runs on seven hits in what proved to be the scariest win of the season. Unfortunately, at Yankee Stadium, giving up hard-hit balls is not usually going to end well.

This four-game set will be the last time these two team will face each other until July 4th weekend, so the time to knock the Rays back down into the cellar is now.

Today's Lineups

NEW YORK YANKEES TAMPA BAY RAYS
Brett Gardner - LF Brandon Guyer - CF
Carlos Beltran - RF Steven Souza - RF
Alex Rodriguez - DH Evan Longoria - 3B
Mark Teixeira - 1B Logan Forsythe - DH
Brian McCann - C Joey Butler - LF
Chase Headley - 3B James Loney - 1B
Chris Young - CF Asdrubal Cabrera - SS
Stephen Drew - 2B Tim Beckham - 2B
Didi Gregorius - SS Rene Rivera - C
CC Sabathia - LHP Alex Colome - RHP