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Wednesday August 4th, 2021 2:06AM

LEADING OFF: Rays-Yankees renew rivalry, Flaherty vs Bauer

By The Associated Press
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A look at what’s happening around the majors today:

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HOT STUFF

The Rays and Yankees renew their intense AL East rivalry with a Memorial Day matinee in the Bronx to begin a four-game series.

“They hate us and so it’s easy for us to get more excited to play those guys,” Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Thompson said. “It’s kind of how they’ve behaved in the past couple years with us pitching inside, with them throwing at our guys, stuff like that.”

The first-place Rays (34-20) have won 15 of 16 and are tied with San Diego for the best record in the majors. Meanwhile, the Yankees just dropped three straight in Detroit for the Tigers’ first home series sweep of the Bronx Bombers in 21 years.

New York (29-24) was outscored 15-5 with 36 strikeouts during the series and went 1 for 25 with runners in scoring position.

Rich Hill pitches for Tampa Bay against Jameson Taillon at Yankee Stadium.

“We don’t have any reservations about it,” Thompson said. “We just go out there and we’re like, `We’re going to beat those guys.’ They can talk all the talk they want, they can throw at our guys, we’re going to beat them -- and in the past two years we’ve definitely done that.”

Tampa Bay topped the Yankees in their Division Series last October on the way to winning the American League pennant. The Rays have won six of nine, including a 3-0 record in New York, during this year’s season series.

“When we play the Yankees, we don’t talk about it, it’s just something different,” Thompson said. “There’s a little bit extra that you can just feel it in the room, in the clubhouse and the field. We want to beat those guys.”

PAIR OF ACES

Jack Flaherty (8-1, 2.54 ERA) pitches for St. Louis against Los Angeles newcomer Trevor Bauer (5-3, 2.07) in the opener of a three-game series between National League contenders at Dodger Stadium. Flaherty leads the majors in wins, while Bauer ranks second in the NL with 91 strikeouts.

HISTORY AND CONNECTIONS

Boston manager Alex Cora returns to Houston when the Red Sox open a four-game series against the Astros.

Cora was Houston's bench coach when the Astros beat Boston in the playoffs en route to winning the 2017 World Series. Then he managed the Red Sox to the 2018 title, defeating Houston in the ALCS along the way — only to be fired after his role in the Astros' 2017 illegal sign-stealing scam was exposed in a Major League Baseball investigation. Now, he's back in charge of the surprising Red Sox (32-20), who have won three in a row and are a game behind first-place Tampa Bay in the AL East.

José Urquidy (3-2, 3.22 ERA) is set to come off the injured list and pitch for Houston against Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 5.06). Urquidy last started May 12, when he exited a game with shoulder discomfort.

EL NINO IN THE WINDY CITY

Fernando Tatis Jr. and the San Diego Padres visit Wrigley Field for an afternoon game against the Chicago Cubs. Chris Paddack (2-3, 3.61 ERA) is scheduled to pitch the series opener for the Padres. He has allowed one run or fewer in each of his last four outings. Trevor Williams (3-2, 5.36) was originally slated to start for Chicago, but he's unavailable after he had an appendectomy Sunday morning.

HELP ON THE WAY

After getting rained out Sunday night for the third time in five days, the depleted Mets (25-20) begin a nine-game road trip at Arizona, which just ended a 13-game losing streak with a 9-2 win over St. Louis.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom will start the opener, and first baseman Pete Alonso (sprained right hand) could come off the injured list along with reliever Seth Lugo (right elbow surgery) and outfielder Kevin Pillar, who sustained multiple facial fractures when he was hit square in the nose by a fastball on May 17.

Despite having 16 players on the injured list, the NL East leaders have won four straight overall and nine of their past 10 at Citi Field, where the Mets are 15-5 this year.

“I know that we can take this game to the road, too,” manager Luis Rojas said.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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