7/2-7/4 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Update: Yankees sign Luis Torrens, Yancarlos Baez, and Alex Palma
Yankees option Cory Wade to Triple-A
Oh boy. (J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Yankees have Rays have already played three different series this season, with Tampa taking the first three games but New York rebounding to win four of the last six. Believe it or not, the Yankees have not won a game at Tropicana Field since last July, a span of seven games.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays are reeling, having just lost three of four to the Tigers and six of their last seven overall. They’ve also won just nine of their last 26 home games, if you can believe that. Tampa is 41-38 overall with a -1 run differential, both the second worst in the AL East.


(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

A slightly below average offensive team at 4.12 runs per game overall, the Rays have scored two or fewer runs six times in their last dozen games. I suppose that’s what happens when your two best hitters — Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce — are on the disabled list at the same time. The most productive hitter on their active roster right now is Ben Zobrist (129 wRC+), who joins Jeff Keppinger (124 wRC+ in 124 PA) and Elliot Johnson (109 wRC+ in 205 PA) as their only three above average contributors. Carlos Pena (101 wRC+) has been essentially league average.

Tampa hasn’t gotten a ton out of Desmond Jennings (95 wRC+) or B.J. Upton (86 wRC+), both of whom have visited the DL at different times this season. Luke Scott (83 wRC+) just came back from injury to take over DH duties from Hideki Matsui (40 wRC+), who will probably get the Ol’ Yeller treatment soon. Random infielders like Sean Rodriguez (63 wRC+), Will Rhymes (45 wRC+), and Brooks Conrad (39 wRC+) fill out the roster while catching duties fall on the shoulder of two Joses — Lobaton (80 wRC+) and Molina (70 wRC+). Overall, the Rays have hit just .220/.305/.365 at the Trop this year. Kinda hard to believe a team could hit so poorly in its home park.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore made his first career start against the Yankees last season, striking out 11 in five scoreless innings. He’s been much more human this year, pitching to a 4.19 ERA (4.47 FIP) in 88 innings across 15 starts. The strikeout rate (9.20 K/9 and 23.6 K%) is fantastic, but the walk (4.30 BB/9 and 11.0 BB%), homer (1.33 HR/9), and ground ball (40.2%) numbers aren’t all that impressive. The 23-year-old southpaw throws some of the easiest mid-90s cheese you’ll ever see, and he backs up the fastball with a mid-80s changeup and a low-80s slider. Oddly enough, left-handed batters have tattooed Moore for a .398 wOBA this season with nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (12). It’s a small sample (83 batters faced) thing and unlikely to continue going forward, but it’s very weird.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jamie Shields
The Yankees have already seen Shields three times this season, getting to him twice (5 IP, 6 R on Opening Day and 5 IP, 7 R in early-June) with another okay game (6 IP, 3 R in early-May) mixed in. He’s allowed four or more runs in four of his last six starts and in six of his last nine starts, contributed to his 4.04 ERA (3.70 FIP). Shields currently owns career bests in strikeout (8.51 K/9 and 21.5 K%) and ground ball (53.6%) rates but a career worst walk rate (2.75 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%). He’s also giving up a decent amount of homers (1.03 HR/9). Shields will pitch backwards with six pitches, setting up his three fastballs — low-90s two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter — with three offspeed pitches — mid-80s changeup, low-80s curve, and upper-80s slider. You folks all know how good he can be by now, we’ve seen him enough through the years.

Wednesday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP David Price
Like Shields, the Yankees have seen Price three times this season — 6.1 IP, 2 R in April, 7 IP, 5 R in May, and 5 IP, 1 R in June. His overall season performance is borderline Cy Young caliber, a 2.92 ERA (3.42 FIP) with strong strikeout (8.34 K/9 and 22.8 K%), walk (3.01 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%), and ground ball (54.2%) rates. Price has as added a low-90s cutter this year and uses it to freeze right-handed batters with called strikes outside. It looks like this and is basically unhittable. He’ll still use mid-90s two and four-seamers to go along with his low-80s changeup, upper-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. Again, you folks know how good Price can be. He’s no stranger.

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
The Rays welcomed former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth back over the weekend, and he’s now setting up annoyingly good closer Fernando Rodney (1.97 FIP). It’s a big help with Joel Peralta (4.00 FIP) stinking up the joint (and getting suspended for having pine tar in his glove). Lefty setup man Jake McGee (2.15 FIP) pitched yesterday and in four of the last five days, so he might be on the shelf tonight. Ditto middle man Wade Davis (3.63 FIP), who has appeared in two straight. Rodney pitched yesterday as well. The rest of Joe Maddon’s bullpen features ground ball specialist Burke Badenhop (4.29 FIP) and soft-tossing left-hander J.P. Howell (4.92 FIP). Pretty much an Island of Misfit Relievers cast of characters.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in pretty good shape after getting eight innings out of Phil Hughes on Sunday and seven out of Hiroki Kuroda on Saturday. Former Ray Rafael Soriano has pitched in two straight games, so he might be working at a reduced level of effectiveness tonight if he’s even available. Everyone else is good to go though; check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. For everything you need to know on the Rays, the best place to go is DRays Bay.

Update: Yankees sign Luis Torrens, Yancarlos Baez, and Alex Palma
Yankees option Cory Wade to Triple-A
  • DERP

    W W W

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Matchups worry me a tiny bit, but whatever. I say Freddy gets sweaty, in a good way, tonight, Nova outduels Shields, and Phelps puts in a valiant effort that isn’t enough against Price. 2 out of 3.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      …..or what DERP said.

  • waka flocka

    Tampa can’t hit. Not worried at all about this series.

    • Betty Lizard

      Tampa can pitch. And Maddon can spin straw into gold. I’m always anxious about Tampa games. Good times.

  • Yank The Frank

    I think Freddy will pleasantly surprise tonight and the rest of Andy’s starts. CC will be back soon. We’re in good shape.

  • Greg

    If we can win 4 games in total this week, we are good to go. In any combination.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Shields and Price?




    Yeah, they’ve hit Shields and even had a game where they clobbered Price, but that’s still annoying. Hell, hasn’t Shields started the series opener all four times by now? And this is the third time Price will be the final pitcher.

    Reminds me in years past where they always drew the Doc when they played the Jays. He/they can be had on a good night, but good luck getting that good night on any kind of regular basis.

  • Ro

    Nice little write up by Jon Lane at YES (credit RAB side bar) about Freddy G. Yeah, the win would be great tonight, but more than that, I really want to see Freddy pitch a solid game. The guy is such a team player and I’m really hoping he can go 6 (maybe 7?) with less than 2 runs. Just for him. He wanted to come back to the Yankees. I remember from 2 seasons ago he openly stated he “wanted to pitch for the Yankee’s” and there really is a lot to be said about that. Let’s just hope rookie phenom, Matt Moore doesn’t surprisingly find his stuff tonight.

    …and my fist may go through the television is Maddon does like 386 shifts over the 9 innings. I used to be a big supporter of Maddon and how he runs that team. These days, the guy just pisses me off with his moves. That’s his prerogative, however.

    • Betty Lizard

      Still love Maddon, but I’ll be wearing my “fuck that shift” t shirt during the series.

      • Ro

        The guy just amazes me sometimes. Need a 2nd baseman. Poof! Pulls one out of his ass. Need someone at SS, no prob. Grabs the 5th OF teaches the player everything he needs to know in less than 3 outs. Need two relief arms. Boom. Problem solved. I’ll just place a few droplets of blood on the top step of the dugout, two arms magically grow and throw two no hit innings.

        While the players themselves deserve credit, there’s a lot to be said about the production he’s gotten out of that team — not including starting pitching, who’ve been a league of their own — in recent years.

        • Betty Lizard

          Exactly. Watching Maddon, coupled with excellent Tampa pitching, makes for “interesting” matchups.

  • Fin

    I have to assume the Rays will play significantly better going forward. I just hope it doesnt start with this series. I’m hoping the Yankees are catching them during a slump and not at the end of one where they turn it around and go on a streak.

    With the level of competition the Yankees have had over the last month and the competition going forward. I think they may have a taxed bullpen for most of the season. Playing teams over .500 non stop does not lend itself to blowouts. Even with outstanding performances from Hughes and Kuroda, Soriano is still overworked and possibly not available tonight becuase all of these games the Yankees are winning are close.

    In my opinion the reason the Yankees picked up Quals is becasue of the schedule they have had and will have going forward. I think its going to be all hands on deck and there will be alot of relievers going up and down from AAA. There is no way the Yankees can count on Ardsma or Joba this year, so they are trying to load up on relievers as I think they are going to need alot of them.

    IF the Yankees had been playing the seattles and Miami’s of the world like the Sox have, I dont think the bullpen would be the little bit of an issue that it has become.

    • 28 this year

      The thing is, as effective as matching up can be, it requires more pitchers per night and that becomes a problem because people cannot pitch 3, 4 days in a row. The starters have been going deep but to get through the 7th, 8th, and 9th, Girardi burns the entire bullpen affecting the days after. Thats caused our bullpen to not be as rested as you woudl expect with pitchers going 6-7 innings every start for the past month save for a few.

      • Fin

        Again, having to match up all the time, is due to every game being in doubt. Girardi cant leave a guy in, to give up a couple runs, hes playing the matchups to win tight games. Good teams just dont get blown out that often. I have heard Girardi take just as much, if not more critism on this site for not using the matchup, and letting X reliever pitch to opposite handed batter. The bottom line is with every game being close, relievers just dont get the rest they should and will tire out. With the Yankees schedule going forward, I see the tight games continuing.

  • Reggie C.

    As bad as Teixeira has performed in June, Pena was much worse.

    New month, new series … Here’s hoping Teixiera finds a new found luck and hard contact for a good stretch these last two series before ASB.

  • eephus_pitch

    Over/under on how many outs Tex makes by hitting right into the shift?
    I got 8.

  • Kevin

    The bullpen problem is something many teams are facing,not just the Yanks. Is the bullpen getting taxed?
    IMO yes but most of the teams in the running are facing that problem..there aren’t going to be many blowout games against .500 teams.