|Torres built to last as Yankees host Rays|
NEW YORK -- In the last few days, manager Aaron Boone has moved some things around with the lineup for the New York Yankees.
He moved Didi Gregorius up to third following a two-homer game Tuesday and slotted Greg Bird seventh.
One change not made by Boone was moving Gleyber Torres from the ninth spot, and it is likely the rookie second baseman will stay there again Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
In 44 games since making his major league debut April 22, Torres has batted ninth 35 times while getting four starts as an eighth-place hitter, two in the fifth spot and one apiece as a sixth and seventh-place hitter.
Although the Yankees dropped a 5-4 decision to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and lost for the third time in 13 games, Torres hit his 12th homer. Each of his homers is out of the ninth spot, surpassing the team record set by Alfonso Soriano in 2001.
"I think his value in that nine hole is significant," Boone said before Torres' latest homer. "And I think it's played out that way where he's come up in a lot of big situations in that spot. And as we turn over our lineup ahead of Gardy (Brett Gardner) and (Aaron) Judge; in essence, in a lot of cases it does become like a second leadoff hitter down there."
For a second leadoff hitter, Torres is batting .296 with 30 RBIs, though he is 9-for-39 over his last 11 games.
Torres' latest homer occurred on a night when Bird hit his third homer of the season and had two hits after entering Wednesday with five hits in his previous 36 at-bats.
"Not a lot different frankly," Boone said. "I'm kind of seeing the at-bats I saw tonight, just not a ton of results."
One player who will return to the lineup is catcher Gary Sanchez, who was given the last two nights off. Sanchez is hitless in his last 15 at-bats, 4-for-53 since May 21 and batting .190 overall.
Whatever the lineup card looks like, the Yankees will attempt to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since May 22-23 in Texas.
The Rays are 4-1 in their last five games since dropping eight straight. Tampa Bay also improved to 28-22 in its last 50 contests after getting off to a 4-13 start.
On Wednesday, the Rays pulled out a 1-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays when Matt Duffy hit an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. After Duffy's hit, Tampa Bay will play the next 16 games against the Yankees, Houston Astros and Nationals.
"We are starting to roll a little bit, feeling good, and we are going to keep that going," Rays rookie first baseman Jake Bauers told reporters.
Tampa Bay's tough stretch will start with Blake Snell on the mound. Snell is 8-3 with a 2.30 ERA and has matched a career high by winning his last four decisions. It is the third time in his brief career Snell has done so.
Since allowing five runs over 3 1/3 innings in a 17-1 loss at Baltimore on May 13, Snell is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in five starts while totaling 36 strikeouts in his last 30 1/3 innings.
Snell last pitched Saturday in a 7-3 victory against the Seattle Mariners. Matched up against Felix Hernandez, he allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits in six innings. He allowed a homer to Nelson Cruz, snapping a scoreless streak of 23 1/3 innings, and did so on a day when the left-hander felt his stuff was not as crisp.
"Off what I had today, I'd say it was good," Snell said. "Frustration with most (of my pitches). It's a tough lineup. When you don't have anything going and get through six, you've got to be happy with it."
Snell, along with aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 starts, good for the most in the majors. He also has allowed one earned run or less nine times.
Snell is 2-3 with a 4.58 ERA in nine starts against the Yankees and 0-3 with a 6.55 in Yankee Stadium. He last faced the Yankees April 4 in New York when he allowed five earned runs, including third-inning homers to Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez in 3 1/3 innings.
Domingo German will make another attempt at his first career win Thursday. He is 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA this season and 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in six starts since entering the rotation last month in place of the injured Jordan Montgomery.
German last pitched in Saturday's 4-3 victory at the New York Mets when he allowed three runs on five hits in six innings. German allowed three hits, including homers to Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, in the first inning and only two hits the rest of the way.
Thursday marks German's 19th career appearance and first against Tampa Bay.