May
19

Staying above water against the Rays

By

Photo credit: Mike Carlson/AP

The Yanks and Rays have played just one series so far, but in it the Yankees took the lead in the season series 2-1. That might not sound important, knowing that they’ll play 15 more times before the end of the season. Yet any advantage is at least somewhat important in the 2010 AL East. The Yanks and Rays appear to be the best teams in baseball right now, so head-to-head matchups mean even more. Neither team can do anything about what the other does for the other 144 games of the year, but they can make a difference during those 18 included in the unbalanced schedule.

Thankfully, the Yankees have played the Rays well in the past few years. Last year, even though the Rays underperformed to an extent and essentially fell out of the division race in August, the Yankees went 11-7 against them, despite losing two out of three in a meaningless series to close the season. Even in 2008, when the Rays won the AL East with 97 wins and the Yanks missed the playoffs, the Yanks won 11 of their 18 match-ups. Going back further than that gets into Tampa Bay’s cellar dwelling days, though, strangely, the Yanks had a losing record against them in 2005.

The Yanks’ current 2-1 edge over the Rays means that they’ll continue leading the season series even if they split the next two games. That record will hold for a bit, as they don’t meet again until July 16th. The biggest battles will likely have to wait until September, when the Yankees travel to St. Petersburg for three games from the 13th through the 15th, and then the Rays come to the Stadium for four starting on the 20th. Those could be the final stand for either team’s claim to the AL East title. For now, the Yanks will just try to stay above water.

Thankfully, they open the series with a pitching advantage. Other than his meltdown at Fenway, A.J. Burnett has been fantastic this season. Even when he doesn’t have everything working, as he didn’t Friday evening against the Twins, he’s still able to scrape together quality starts. In only two starts, both against the Sox, has he failed to pitch into the seventh inning, which has been a boon to the bullpen. Last time around Burnett pitched seven innings and held the Rays to two runs.

The Yankees hit Wade Davis well in his season debut, turning 11 baserunners into four runs in six innings. Since then Davis has been a bit better, and now has his ERA down to 3.38. His peripherals, however, do not match up. His FIP sits at 4.94 and his xFIP is 4.96, so it appears that he’s gotten a bit lucky. That’s easy to verify with a look at his strikeout rate, 6.08 per nine, against his walk rate, 4.73 per nine. Davis has walked as few as two batters twice, but both times that came against Oakland, not the most patient team in the league. Unsurprisingly, he walked four batters, his season highs, against the Yankees and Red Sox.

Where the Yanks might find a real advantage is tomorrow night. While facing James Shields is never an easy task, this is more about the Rays offense than their pitching. Against left-handers this year the Rays have hit .229/.309/.360, while against righties they’re .266/.342/.424. Andy Pettitte, tomorrow night’s scheduled starter, missed the series against the Rays the first time, though CC Sabathia had his way with them. While Shields could hold the Yankees’ offense in check, Pettitte could match him pitch-for-pitch.

When two teams as good as the Yanks and the Rays meet, it’s tough to set expectations. As the last three games have reminded us, anything can happen when two good teams battle for nine innings. All the Yanks have to do, though, is win one of these. That will keep them above water against an important division foe until the next time the two meet.

Categories : Other Teams

66 Comments»

  1. Frank says:

    My concern, at least for tonight’s game, is who closes it out if the Yanks have a lead in the 8th? Joba threw 31 pitches last night and Mo 29. It would be huge if AJ could go 8 tonight.

    • Rose says:

      It’s disturbing because the rest of the bunch aren’t anything to get excited about. Melancon is back so who knows…do they thrust him into a pressure cooking situation right off the bat? (no pun intended)

  2. Rose says:

    The Rays are entirely healthy and their starting pitchers are actually the ones carrying the team.

    If Posada and Swisher don’t start or something happens to them further…the club could be in for a rude awakening.

    • Frank says:

      The lineup is already posted on LoHud. No Swish (biceps still hurts) or Posada (MRI for his foot). And to top it off, another nail biting evening with Thames in RF.

      • Rose says:

        Oh boy. If we make it out of this only 4 games back (splitting the 2 game series) I’ll consider that an absolute success. A 2 game sweep seems nearly impossible.

        Good nasty healthy young pitching + Cervelli, Thames, Miranda/Pena, Winn = Disaster pit. And that’s just on the offensive side of things. The defense stinks pretty bad too with Thames in there.

        • Doug says:

          they’ll be 3 out with a split

        • bexarama says:

          We’ve got some pitchers who have been pretty good so far this year going too, you know. The Yankees’ lineup right now isn’t what it should be but if I could do anything about it, I would.

          And they’d be out three with a split.

          • Rose says:

            We’ve got some pitchers who have been pretty good so far this year going too, you know.

            You’re right.

            But…

            Tampa Bay’s pitching + Tampa Bay’s healthy defense > New York’s pitching + New York’s unhealthy defense

            And let’s not even get started with the bullpens. New York’s bullpen just blew two 5 run deficit games in a row to a 4th place team with an almost equal amount of injuries. Yeesh.

            Get well soon guys! Fast!

            • poster says:

              And yet, even with all the unjuries, these last two games we’ve scored 11 and 6 runs. Our offense, as bad as it may seem with the injuries, is still pretty awesome.

              • Rose says:

                1-5 certainly is…I agree. But Boston’s pitching hasn’t exactly been anything great this year either. Boston has the 4th worst ERA in the entire game and THE worst in the AL.

                But yes, we could get by if we could limit the errors and keep out bullpen out of the game.

      • nathan says:

        Thames @ RF. Why is Girardi killing us. Isnt it high time that they DL’ed Swisher. Too many inactive players in the bench. Split is a best case scenario. It would sting if we are 5 out after these 2 games. Lets go Yanks.

    • SK says:

      could be? I think that have already awakened to the fact that they cannot win it all with Cervelli-Thames-Miranda-Winn as the 6-9 of our lineup.

      Winn is batting terribly and i can’t wait for him to be gone. Does anyone have his WAR for the season? I would be surprised if it was positive

      • Thomas says:

        His WAR is 0, according to fangraphs. He is -.2 runs above replacement (.9 fielding, 2.0 replacement, -2.3 batting, and -.8 positional).

        • bexarama says:

          does that 0.9 fielding mean he’s actually worth POSITIVE runs fielding??

          :: head explodes ::

          • TheLastClown says:

            No, that means for every time he takes the field, 0.9 balls will be hit over his head.

            I mean, this guy’s never heard of no doubles…amirite?

            • Thomas says:

              Maybe at the end of the next game, Rob Thompson will be smart and position Randy Winn on the bench.

              • rbizzler says:

                Really and leave Thames out there instead.

                I’ll take my chance with Randy, thanks.

                • Thomas says:

                  That was joke playing off of how poorly* Randy Winn and Thompson positioned LF.

                  *The positioning was logical, just ineffective this time.

                • Mister Delaware says:

                  Would you rather (1) Winn-Gardner-Thames or (2) Gardner-Gardner*?

                  * This assumes we could clone Gardner and have one verison play LCF and one version play RCF

      • rek4gehrig says:

        Whilst it’s easy to criticize 6-9 or 7-9, they could’ve won last three games if only the BP had done its job.

    • poster says:

      I’m not too worried. Right now they’re unhealthy and playing pretty well (not perfectly, but whatevs). When they get healthy, they should be batshit insane.

      • Rose says:

        Since May 9th (amidst the injury train) the Yankees are 4-6.

        That’s not pretty well but it is what it is either way.

        It was going to happen sooner or later…just pretty funny that it all happened to half the team at the exact same time. Strange.

        • poster says:

          Last 3 series:

          2 of 3 from Red Sox

          1 of 4 from Tigers

          2 of 3 from Twins

          1 of 2 from Sox

          We’ve had one bad series skewing the numbers.

        • TheLastClown says:

          There have been some shitty circumstances, and of course the team won’t be bringing the ‘A’ game w/ so many injuries, but out of the 6 losses, only two were pretty unavoidable.

          The Burnett meltdown in Fenway, and the Verlander game.

          All the others were pretty winnable/had positives to be taken out of them.

          Detroit game 1: Mitre pitches passably, A-Rods power begins to returen
          Detroit game 2: Javy pitches very well

          Minny game 2: they get a 2 run lead to the back of the BP, it didn’t convert, but that’s what you’re looking for

          And yesterday: Hey, they scored 6 runs! And CC’s performance was great.

  3. Tank the Frank says:

    Regarding the walks, I’d be interested to know how far (if at all) the Yankees BB% has dropped since Nick Johnson and Nick Swisher have been out of the lineup.

  4. larryf says:

    At least we are not thinking of the Carl Crawford audition as much as we did all off season….

    /The Great Gritsky

  5. yoo-boo says:

    Chamberlain wont be available for this series so that means who will be a secondary closer as if Rivera will be only available for one game in that series.

    Melancon and Park will pitch a multiple innings. Robertson can do it but it has to be done tonight not tomorrow so that way he can be available for the NY showdown this weekend.

    make it happen.

  6. Mark says:

    Isn’t it time to DL Posada and Swisher? I mean Jennings says neither is getting better, and I am sure the team could use more bullpen arms :)

    • Rose says:

      If there were only a way to clone Randy Winn and Marcus Thames and age them 35 years immediately…that would solve all of our problems.

    • nathan says:

      With Posada going for the MRI, i guess it might happen.

      Swisher should have been DL’ed. We need some late inning defensive replacements. Golson and Russo come on up.

  7. nathan says:

    We are in the bizzaro week, the late inning relief sucks and cant be trusted. How often have we said that in the last few years. The timing sucks, it would sting a little less if it were the Royals or Orioles. Oh well, lets get a series split and get ready to run riot over the Mets.

    • Mike HC says:

      There was a small consolation in seeing Papelbon completely meltdown as well though. Even if he got the job done last night, that is not exactly a confidence builder.

      • nathan says:

        Why did they bunt Cervelli…. grrrr

        You are right BS for PapelBum. It would have been even cooler if it were 2 BS’s for the Bum.

        • Mike HC says:

          Yea, I hated the Cervelli bunt as well. What are you gonna do though. You knew it was coming.

          • nathan says:

            Oh yes, as soon as we had no outs and man on second, we all knew that Joe G will put on his NL manager cap. There is no guarantee that Cervelli will hit there, but come on, he so damn hot at the plate let him swing, he is the master of dunking hits into gaps. it sucked.

  8. Mike HC says:

    The Rays are a major problem. They are better than any team the Yanks had to face last year. Price, Garza and Shields as their top three is dangerous and could out pitch the Yanks top three on any given night.

    Longoria, Pena, Upton, Crawford, Zobrist is a monster middle of the order.

    They are a team to be legitimately worried about.

    • TheLastClown says:

      Yup…aren’t competitive sports fun?

    • Slugger27 says:

      anyone could outpitch anyone on any given night… yesterday zach duke and company outpitched roy halladay… it happens

      • TheLastClown says:

        Ezzatly.

      • Mike HC says:

        I don’t think I could out pitch Halladay no matter what night it is. I get your point though.

        Just saying that the Yanks top three are not even necessarily better than the Rays top three. And in a short series, they surely could out pitch the Yanks.

    • A.D. says:

      Longoria, Pena, Upton, Crawford, Zobrist is a monster middle of the order.

      Right now it’s Just Longoria & Crawford, the other 3 are OPSing 709 or worse.

      But yeah, their starting staff can pitch with anyone, top 3 or top 5.

  9. TheLastClown says:

    C’mon everyone, are we really worried about the team that couldn’t put a man on the mound base against Dallas effing Braden?

    • nathan says:

      How did that happen. Maybe the Oakland crowd put them to sleep with their enthusiasm and vocal support [not}.

  10. mike c says:

    we take the 2 games, tampa has been having a cake walk so far

  11. vtbando says:

    Rays opponents:

    BLT., NYY, BLT, BOS, CHI, TOR, OAK, KC, SEA, OAK, LA, SEA, CLE

    Combined record of opponents (not including the Yanks):

    155-215
    .419 win %

    • nathan says:

      But most of that negative/under 500 record was because those teams played the awesome Devil Rays.

      // MSM’d

    • Steve H says:

      Great point.

      They are 8-5 in 1 run games. Not only is that a great winning percentage for 1 run games, but that’s a ton of 1 run games. The Yankees are 0-4. THat’s a lot of games the Rays could have gone either way, and so far they have been good/lucky in those games.

  12. pete says:

    This thread is full of logicFAIL. It’s a 2 game series. How it turns out will be, in this tiny of a sample, based 99.999% on luck of the draw.

  13. bexarama says:

    This is the advantage to having a very hot start against very good teams. You can weather bumps in the road like this.

    I feel like there isn’t much positivity about this team right now, and I understand. The bottom of the lineup is not optimal at all. The injuries are worrisome – should they just (retroactively?) DL Posada or Swisher already, too? There shouldn’t be essentially 23 players on the team when other teams have 25. The bullpen’s sucked the last few days. But writing off the team before they play the games is silly to me. They’re still a very good team, even with the injuries. And when people come back healthy and the Yankees get a bit easier schedule, they are going to beast.

  14. SullyLV says:

    Just wanted to say that the Yankees manager is the one that had Winn play so shallow in left field.The reason is since Rivera pitches inside to lefties usually the batters hit flares to left field.

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