By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- With two of their top starting pitchers missing, the New York Yankees could sorely use some better performances from Freddy Garcia than the last time he was in the rotation.
A visit to the struggling Tampa Bay Rays might help Garcia ease back into a starting role and enable the Yankees to end their seven-game skid at Tropicana Field on Monday night.
New York (48-30) suffered two big blows Thursday when All-Star CC Sabathia (groin) and Andy Pettitte (ankle) landed on the disabled list. The Yankees didn't get much help from emergency call-up Adam Warren the following night in his major league debut, a 14-7 defeat to the Chicago White Sox that got so out of hand that outfielder Dewayne Wise had to pitch the ninth inning.
The Yankees are hoping Garcia (2-2, 6.39 ERA) will serve as a better stopgap when they give him the ball for his first start since April 28. The veteran right-hander was 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA over the first month of the season and didn't make it out of the second inning in the final two of his four starts.
Garcia, though, thrived after being sent to the bullpen, posting a 1.56 ERA in 10 appearances.
"I was looking for any opportunity every time they put me out there. I'm glad I did my job when they asked me, and now I'm looking forward to starting Monday," he told the Yankees' official website.
The right-hander probably couldn't ask for a much better opponent for his return to the rotation than the Rays (41-38). Garcia has won three consecutive starts against Tampa Bay and has posted a 1.32 ERA over the last two matchups, both on the road.
He scattered eight hits, walked none and struck out seven over 6 2-3 innings of a 4-0 win at Tropicana Field last July 20.
This time, Garcia will face a team that has batted .210 and been outscored 39-17 while losing six of seven. Tampa Bay rallied to tie Sunday's game against Detroit on Jose Molina's fifth-inning double but gave up two runs in the sixth en route to a 5-3 defeat.
"It's been a really tough last couple weeks, and we need to turn it around," outfielder Ben Zobrist said. "The Yankees coming in, that's a perfect time to do it."
The Yankees have won four of six over the Rays overall, but all those games came in the Bronx. They suffered a three-game sweep to open the season April 6-8 at Tampa Bay.
However, New York has now won 11 of its last 13 road games and seven of nine overall. Robinson Cano's two-run homer was the big hit in Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The four-time All-Star second baseman is batting .377 with nine homers and 16 RBIs over his last 14 games.
Cano and his teammates may be in for a challenge against Matt Moore (4-5, 4.19), who had a career-best 11 strikeouts and pitched five scoreless innings in his lone matchup with New York on Sept. 22.
The left-hander enters this start seeking a fourth consecutive victory, but he wasn't exactly dominant in his most recent outing. Moore gave up four runs, a career-high 10 hits, and two walks over 7 1-3 innings of the Rays' 5-4 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday.
Cano is batting .382 against the Rays this season and .323 lifetime with 21 homers, tied for his most against any opponent.
Updated July 2, 2012