The Rays and Yankees will meet Sunday afternoon in the rubber game at Tropicana Field, an all-important series win up for grabs for two teams in the middle of the pack in the American League East trying to put together a playoff push.
"It's definitely getting late," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I said it when we were in Baltimore, or before that series, every game is kind of must-win at this point. We really need to win some games. There's definitely a sense of urgency in here."
Tampa Bay took Friday's series opener, 5-0, but New York came back with a 3-2 win on Saturday, when Derek Jeter drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning off Rays reliever Jake McGee.
On Sunday, Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound for Tampa Bay, making his sixth start of the season. After he couldn't get out of the fifth inning in his first three starts, the right-hander has gotten deeper into games in his last two -- he pitched seven innings of one-run ball to beat the A's on Aug. 6 and followed that with six scoreless innings against the Rangers on Tuesday.
"It's nice to be able to go out there and do it two times in a row," Hellickson said. "Those first three starts I felt good, just the results weren't there. So it's nice to get the results and feel good after a start."
The Yankees will start veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is 7-8 with a 4.03 ERA on the season. Kuroda is coming off a relatively short outing in his last start, when he took a loss against the Indians after allowing three runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Kuroda has hit a slightly rough patch lately -- he is 1-2 with a 4.81 ERA in his last four starts, having allowed 13 runs in 24 1/3 innings. He is 0-1 in two starts against the Rays this year, going 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs in a no-decision on April 18 and taking a loss on July 1 despite throwing eight innings of two-run ball.
Rays: Belnome recalled, starts Saturday's game
The Rays recalled designated hitter Vince Belnome from Triple-A Durham on Saturday to take the place of reliever Brandon Gomes, who was optioned to the Bulls after Friday's win.
Belnome started at DH for Tampa Bay on Saturday, batting seventh. In the second inning, he walked against Yankees starter Shane Greene to reach base for the first time in his Major League career. He finished the game 0-for-2.
The 26-year-old had only played one other game, making his Major League debut for the Rays on July 3 against the Tigers. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in that game and was sent down at the end of the Detroit series.
"This is the ultimate goal, to be up here and help this team win and hopefully make a playoff run," Belnome said.
Yankees: Beltran works way back to start in right field
Carlos Beltran said that he was given no better than a 50-50 chance of playing the outfield again this season, but that coin flip has worked out in the Yankees' favor. The veteran played right field on Saturday, his first appearance there since May 11.
"I'm happy, of course," Beltran said. "We have been looking forward to this, trying to put my arm in condition to be back in the outfield. It really took a while. ... Right now, I just feel like it's time."
Beltran has a bone spur in his right elbow that will require surgery after the season, but the 37-year-old said that he has been throwing without discomfort.
The Yankees have been playing Martin Prado in right field since his July 31 acquisition from the D-backs, with Beltran limited to designated hitter duties.
• Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan (left oblique strain) did some baserunning drills at Tropicana Field before Saturday's game against the Yankees. Manager Joe Maddon said he still has no return date in mind for Hanigan, simply reiterating what he said on Friday, that Hanigan continues to feel better.
• Yankees catcher Brian McCann (concussion) was eligible to be activated from the seven-day disabled list on Saturday, but the Yankees have decided to give him at least one more day to continue workouts.
Manager Joe Girardi said that he thought McCann looked "kind of lethargic" going through catching drills and batting practice on Friday, which was likely related to resting for several days after sustaining the concussion in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.