The two teams will meet for a four-game set, beginning on Monday night at Tropicana Field, with the Yankees narrowly trailing the Red Sox in the division and the Rays following behind. The trio own three of the four best records in the AL.
"I think it's important," New York skipper Joe Girardi said of the impending series. "They're important games, just like the games we had at our ballpark, because we know they're going to be there all year long and we're going to have to battle them. This gives us a chance to do that."
The Yankees have won three of the five meetings between the two clubs this year, having taken two out of three in New York after splitting a two-game set at Tropicana Field.
For Tampa Bay, right-hander Alex Cobb will take the hill on Monday, looking to build on his 2-0 record since being called up from Triple-A Durham to fill Wade Davis' spot in the rotation.
In his last outing, Cobb surrendered two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Marlins, picking up the victory.
"It was a bonus to even be up here," Cobb said afterward. "I'm happy to be here as long as I've been up here. It's been an unbelievable experience, and it's only going to help me with my career going forward. There are a couple of things I'm going to work on in Durham, and I'm excited to get the chance to go back there and do that without all of the pressures that [come] with being up here."
With five big league starts under his belt and an ERA of 3.41, Cobb has begun to get comparisons to another Rays starter.
"I compare [Cobb] to Jeremy [Hellickson] all the time. They remind me of one another," manager Joe Maddon said. "I expect to see a very calm demeanor and a guy that's not going to be overwhelmed with the situation. I really believe the moment is not going to impact a lot."
A.J. Burnett gets the starting nod on Monday for the Yankees, coming off a perplexing first half. He hasn't won since June 29 but hasn't surrendered more than four earned runs in an outing since June 8.
Yankees: Jeter racking up more milestones
Having just recorded his 3,000th career hit, shortstop Derek Jeter continues to work his way deeper into baseball's record books.
Jeter tied Tigers legend Al Kaline for 26th on the all-time hit list with No. 3,007 on Saturday. The Yankees' captain needs just three more to catch ex-teammate Wade Boggs, the next hitter on the list.
Jeter was given Sunday off.
Rays: Lobaton gets starts
Recalled from Triple-A Durham before the start of the Rays' three-game set against the Red Sox, Jose Lobaton got his first start behind the plate for Sunday's game against the Sox.
Lobaton hit .293 with eight homers, 31 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .410 in 54 games with Durham.
"I tried to get more patient at the plate," Lobaton said. "I tried to get walks because I know the team likes walks. I said, 'I'm going to try to play how the team wants.'"
Outfielder B.J. Upton, who leads the Rays with 15 homers, 52 RBIs and 22 stolen bases, has driven in 18 runs over his past 18 games.
New York pitchers have gone five straight games without allowing a home run. The longest such stretch of the season was six games, from June 28-July 3.
Seven games back of first in the division is the Rays' worst standing of the season thus far.
Outfielder Matt Joyce was not in the starting lineup for Sunday's game because of a sore right knee, but pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. He fouled a ball off that knee in Saturday's game but continued to play.