The Yankees will begin their fifth straight series within their division when they open play against the Rays on Monday at Yankee Stadium.
In its last four series, New York has played the Blue Jays (twice), the Orioles and the Red Sox and finished 6-6 during that stretch -- Tampa Bay is the only American League East team it didn't face in the span.
"Right now, I always believe that when you play against teams that are in your division, those are series that you've got to win," said Yankees designated hitter Carlos Beltran.
The Rays are also coming off a series against a divisional opponent, having beaten the Orioles three out of four games over the weekend. It was the Rays' first series win against Baltimore this season -- the Orioles had been 7-1 against the Rays prior to the series -- and was, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said, almost a must-win for his last-place ballclub.
In Monday's series opener, the Yankees' David Phelps will match up against the Rays' Chris Archer.
Phelps is 3-4 with a 4.35 ERA this season. He put together back-to-back quality starts in mid-June, beating two division leaders in the A's and Blue Jays, but has given up 19 runs in 16 2/3 innings in his other three starts this month. The latest of those outings was a five-inning, six-run loss to Toronto on Tuesday.
Archer also struggled in his last start, allowing five runs (four earned) to the Pirates in a 6-5 loss. Before that, he had been on fire, allowing just four earned runs in 40 2/3 innings over his previous seven starts for a Major League-best 0.89 ERA in that span.
The young right-hander has also won his first four career starts against the Yankees. The last pitcher to win his first five games against New York was Walter Johnson. During Archer's last start at Yankee Stadium on July 27, he threw a two-hit shutout and needed fewer than 100 pitches.
"Since that point, I know what I'm capable of and I'm striving to do that every night out," Archer said. "That's the standard for me."
Rays: Escobar tests sore shoulder with catch
After the Rays beat the O's on Sunday, Maddon said that Yunel Escobar would go through a full pregame warmup on Monday. The Rays are not bringing an extra player to New York, so they're not anticipating a stint on the disabled list for the shortstop.
After swinging the bat on Saturday, Escobar played catch before the game on Sunday to test the shoulder.
Escobar hasn't seen action since leaving Tuesday's loss to the Pirates in the eighth inning. The righty hasn't had an MRI or X-ray on the shoulder.
"[Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield] did not feel it was necessary," Maddon said.
Yankees: Beltran battling right forearm soreness
Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 with a solo home run Sunday, just hours after he revealed that he has been dealing with lingering soreness in his right forearm that may have played a role in his issues at the plate.
Prior to Sunday, Beltran had two hits in his last 25 at-bats after hitting a game-winning three-run homer against the Orioles on June 20.
"My elbow feels fine. It's just the forearm, when I started throwing, it kind of got tight," he said. "Now the knot is almost gone. It's still sore a little bit on the top, but it's improving."
Beltran has been relegated to designated hitter since he returned from the disabled list for his elbow injury. The Yankees are tentatively planning to have Beltran resume throwing in a week, in hopes that he can play the outfield again at some point this year.
• The Yankees have lost six of their last eight games and dropped their last three series.
• With one game left in June, Rays pitchers have 278 strikeouts in the month -- just eight shy of the Major League record of 286 for any team in any month, set by the Cubs in August 2002.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.