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TB@NYY: Pettitte turns in six strong, strikes out 10

The Yankees faced a pair of left-handers in their doubleheader against the Dodgers on Wednesday, and they'll oppose another on Thursday night when they open a four-game set against the American League East-rival Rays at Yankee Stadium.

Not that the slew of southpaws should bother the Yankees much. In 23 games this season against left-handed starters, New York is 15-8.

It's Matt Moore who will be tasked with stopping the Bronx Bombers on Thursday as the two clubs square off at Yankee Stadium for the first time this year. In his past three starts, Moore has seen his ERA skyrocket by nearly two points, a product of his having allowed 19 earned runs over 13 1/3 innings.

"Every year I've ever played, I've had ups and downs," said Moore, who has now lost three straight starts after starting the season 8-0. "We've prepared, and I feel good about this one, as far as preparation of where I was last week. I like the way I feel."

Moore turned 24 on Tuesday, and he reflected on his time spent in the big leagues, where he has established himself as one of the AL's brightest young arms.

"It's something I always wanted and something I was pushing for," Moore said. "To [predict] I would be where I am right now -- in the rotation, having a year under my belt -- I would probably say no. It's been fun so far."

Opposite Moore will be veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, who's 5-4 with a 3.95 ERA. Pettitte is looking to rebound from an outing in Anaheim on Friday that saw him allow a season-high 11 hits.

If Pettitte can hand the ball over to the back end of the bullpen with a lead, the Yankees will have a good chance to win. They've gone 33-1 this season when leading after seven innings.

"It's been a combination that's been really, really good for a while here, and you do feel fortunate when you have guys that lock down games," manager Joe Girardi said of the combo of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. "We talk about it all the time, that those are the tougher ones to recover from, when you have the lead and you let the lead slip away late. These guys have been really good."

Rivera, sitting on his all-time-record 633 career saves, offered high praise for Robertson's ability to work out of trouble.

"Robbie has done a tremendous job," Rivera said. "Sometimes he gets himself in little jams, and he gets them out. That's how you do it. You don't think about what I've got in front or what I've got behind me. It's time for you to do the job. You've got to find a way to get it done."

Rays: Torres sharp in 'pen
• Alex Torres has been impressive this season with 18 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen -- and that's exactly where the Rays plan to keep him, even though he started for much of his Minor League career.

Throw in the five scoreless frames Torres tossed to finish the 2011 campaign, and he's now in second place -- trailing only J.P. Howell at 27 1/3 innings -- for the longest scoreless-innings streak in franchise history.

"I've been so impressed with what he's doing right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We all have. For me, I think my mindset is we have enough of the [Jake] Odorizzis and the [Alex] Colomes and the [Chris] Archers and all those guys that are able to fulfill that starting role. I think what he's doing right now is very beneficial to us, and his own personal career."

Yankees: Mattingly returns
• Yankees legend Don Mattingly made his first appearance as Dodgers manager at the new Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. The six-time All-Star and 1985 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner spent 14 seasons in the Bronx, racking up 222 homers and a .307 lifetime batting average.

"It's always been, for me, great," Mattingly said. "You don't quite understand the relationship, honestly. You're from a small town, loved playing, came here and just played. I pretty much tried to keep it as simple as that, and they always seemed to appreciate that. It's nice for me, because I didn't have to do anything but just play. I always enjoyed that."

Worth noting
• In 21 career at-bats against Pettitte, Evan Longoria has notched just two hits -- one of them a home run. Ben Zobrist, meanwhile, is 9-for-22 off the left-hander.

• The Yankees haven't won a season series against the Rays since they took 11 out of 18 in 2009. They've split the six contests thus far -- all in St. Petersburg.

• The Rays are just 7-for-51 (.137) with runners in scoring position over their past eight games.

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