9/14-9/16 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Mailbag: Tie-Breaker, Cano, Nunez, Adams
The RAB Radio Show: September 14th, 2012
The Rays felt flat on their face in Baltimore. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Just three more games and the Yankees are done, done with their primary competition for the AL East crown. They played their final games against the Orioles last weekend, and this weekend they’ll wrap up the season series against the Rays. Every game is important these days, but Tampa is likely to come out with a major sense of urgency this series.

What Have They Done Lately?

Get swept by the Orioles, that’s what they’ve done. The Rays needed to win two of three this week to really get back in the AL East race, but they instead come to the Bronx four games back of a) first place in the division, and b) the second wildcard spot. They’re 77-66 with a +76 run differential on the season.


(Charles Sonnenblick/Getty)

Tampa continues to be a slightly below average offense at 4.1 runs per game overall and 3.5 runs per game in their last 15 contests. Evan Longoria (131 wRC+) has been off the DL for a while but still gets regular reps at DH as he recovers from a bad hamstring injury. Jeff Keppinger (128 wRC+), Ben Zobrist (128 wRC+), and Matt Joyce (121 wRC+) provide plenty of support, though Joyce can be neutralized by left-handers. B.J. Upton (111 wRC+) has been scorching hot of late (six homers in his last nine games) and rounds out the offensive core.

The big name among the rest of the offense is Carlos Pena (91 wRC+), who is having a down year but will almost certainly hit a homer at some point this weekend. The Yankees always struggle to get him out. Desmond Jennings (106 wRC+), Sam Fuld (103 wRC+ in limited time), and Luke Scott (88 wRC+) all take regular at-bats, as does Ryan Roberts (77 wRC+). Roberts fouled a ball off his ankle yesterday and is day-to-day. If he can’t go, expect to see Elliot Johnson (88 wRC+) take his spot on the infield. Ben Francisco (81 wRC+) provides some pop against lefties, the Joses — Lobaton (86 wRC+) and Molina (63 wRC+) — do the catching, and the crop of September call-ups includes speedy outfielder Rich Thompson, slick-fielding infielder Reid Brignac, corner guy Stephen Vogt, and catcher Chris Gimenez.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP David Price
Price, 27, will be pitching for the first time in 12 days tonight after missing his last start with a sore shoulder. He was performing like a legitimate Cy Young candidate prior to the injury, with a 2.54 ERA (3.20 FIP) and gaudy peripherals — 8.72 K/9 (24.3 K%), 2.69 BB/9 (7.5 BB%), and 51.7% grounders — in 27 starts and 180.2 innings. Price is all about the fastball, sitting in the mid-90s with the two- and four-seamer and right around 90 with the cutter. He just added that last pitch not too long ago and will backdoor it to righties all day long. An upper-80s slider, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball are his three scantily used offspeed pitches. The Yankees have seen plenty of Price both this year and in the past, the good and bad versions.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jamie Shields
The Yankees got their latest look at the 30-year-old Shields in St. Pete a week ago, when he held them to three runs in eight innings. He’s pitched very well of late, allowing no more than three runs in any of his last eight starts and dragging his season ERA down to 3.71 (3.56 FIP). His strikeout (8.55 K/9 and 22.7 K%) and ground ball (52.3%) rates are career highs, the walk rate (2.35 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) a career worst (but still really good). Shields is a six-pitch, backwards-pitching machine. He’s in the low-90s with three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) and backs them up with one of the best changeups in baseball. An upper-80s slider and an upper-70s curve round out his arsenal. Like Price, the Yankees have seen plenty of both the good and bad versions of Shields throughout the years. There’s no mystery here.

Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
It’s been a good but not overwhelmingly great season for the 23-year-old Moore, who owns a 3.68 ERA (3.87 FIP) in 28 starts and 166.1 innings. His strikeout rate is excellent (8.93 K/9 and 23.2 K%), but the walks (3.95 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and ground balls (37.8%) leave a lot to be desired. Moore throws easy mid-90s gas, both two- and four-seamers, and complements it with mid-80s sliders and changeups. I still don’t understand how left-handed hitters have a .324 wOBA against him; he should be eating same-side hitters alive with his stuff. The Yankees hung six runs on Moore in 6.1 innings last week after he held them to three runs in seven innings earlier this summer.

(J. Meric/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Rays played 14 innings yesterday, running through their entire regular bullpen as well as September call-up Chris Archer (2.83 FIP). He threw 3.2 innings and 79 pitches in relief, so don’t expect to see him at all this weekend. Super-closer Fernando Rodney (2.22 FIP) threw just one inning yesterday after having four days off, so I have to think he’ll be available all three games this weekend given the circumstances. This is probably also four- and five-out save territory as well. The Rays really need these games.

Setup right-hander Joel Peralta (3.08 FIP) and setup left-hander Jake McGee (1.95 FIP) have both appeared in two straight games, ditto Kyle Farnsworth and Wade Davis (2.97 FIP for both). Second lefty J.P. Howell (4.58 FIP) and ground ball man Burke Badenhop (3.72 FIP) have only appeared in one straight game. Aside from Archer, the other call-ups are right-handers Brandon Gomes and Dane De La Rosa, plus left-hander Cesar Ramos. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen has been worked hard of late, so make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details. DRays Bay is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the Rays.

Ticket Info

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Mailbag: Tie-Breaker, Cano, Nunez, Adams
The RAB Radio Show: September 14th, 2012
  • Darren

    I can’t remember ever seeing an actual pitcher’s duel in any Price/Sabathia match-up. Even with CC’s struggles and Price’s shoulder, I wouldn’t be surprised to finally see one tonight, the way both Tampa and the Yankee have been hitting (or not).

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      I can recall at least one, back in 2010 though.

      • Kramerica Industries

        I was there for that one.

        Sept. 13, 2010. Rays won 1-0 in 11 innings, Reid friggen Brignac with a walk-off home run, off Chad Gaudin I believe.

        Vaulted the Rays into first place.

        I think I had exited the stadium within about ten seconds. I wasn’t about to watch that celebration.

        • MannyGeee

          sounds ominus…

  • Frank Messer

    I’d say we will see three 0-0 games, but Rays should score at least one run a game on a swing-and-miss-strike 3 that eludes Martin, 30 foot infield hit, IBB and then a foul 100 foot pop up off third Sac Fly.

    • Frank Messer

      Nunie take Price deep on a high FB…young quick bats rule

  • Better off Eddard

    So we’ll have to trot out the LHP lineup two more times this series. Runs will be few and far between in this series so the pitching is going to have to step up. Phelps and Phil did their jobs in big games, it’s about time CC and Kuroda do the same.

  • Kramerica Industries

    My expectations remained unfettered – two of three. Do that and it’s a successful series, although it would give the Rays the tiebreaker in the event of a tie at the end of the season.

    But, dammit to hell would it be nice to bury the Rays this weekend. A sweep would do just that, at least in regards to the Yankees. No way would the Rays erase a seven game deficit, with no head-to-heads to speak of. Especially if the Yankees can get that first W tonight – great chance to kill the Rays spirit.

    1-6 in these Sabathia/Price games. Would be nice to get that elusive 2nd W.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’ll go with 2 of 3 as well because, really, what other choice is there.

      I’d say CC rises to the occasion tonight, Kuroda gets it done on Sunday, and Nova looks better, but not good enough, on Saturday.

      • Jim Is Bored

        In theory I agree with you. But this season has been so backwards that it wouldn’t surprise me to see CC stink it up, Nova pitch lights out, and the Kuroda game to be decided by the pens.

        Either way, I think 2 of 3 sounds good.

        • Kosmo

          What the hell, NY wins all 3 games by the scores of 4-3, 6-4 and 2-0. Cano hits 3 HRs for the series collecting 6 RBI.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            That’s the spirit.

  • David K.

    Sabathia has pitched terribly against the Rays for a couple of years now. Realistically, we’ll be fortunate to win 2 of 3. Even with their terrible lineup, the Rays always score runs against our pitching and their shifts work spectacularly well against our hitters, who can’t make an adjustment if their lives depend on it.

  • Frank

    Yanks best bet is Sunday with Kuroda. I have no faith at all in CC tonight. Unless the Yanks bats come alive vs. Price, I say Rays win easily. Tomorrow also favore the Rays the way Shields has been pitching.

    • Kosmo

      Shields is due for a clinker.

      • Darren

        Or even a clunker.

        • Kosmo

          LOL a clunker will do.

  • Kosmo

    Baltimore next 6 on the West Coast:
    Saunders vs Milone
    Britton vs Parker
    TBA vs. Straily

    Gonzalez vs. Ramirez
    Chen vs. Millwood
    Saunders vs. King Felix

    Baltimore goes 2-4 ??

    • MannyGeee

      the same story we’ve been waiting on for about 7 months. These O’s are last years Rays. they just wont fcking die and its annoying

      • Kosmo

        Now`s the Time !

      • Jim Is Bored

        The 2nd wild card spot is close to being non-dramatic, depending on how badly we beat the Rays and what the Angels do in the next 3 games. These O’s aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

        And it plays perfectly into their season narrative that Cespedes would get hurt right before they host the O’s.

  • mt

    Price will either be lights out because of extra rest he just got or he will struggle as he comes back from shoulder soreness. As I mentioned in a prior post, given Yanks struggles against Doubront, a lefty who has been horrible recently, I can see Yank bats whiffing against an even better lefty pitcher like Price.

    Struggling Nova is a major wild card on Saturday and would be surprising if he pitches a reallly good game coming off DL.

    The only pitching matchup that favors us is Sunday and, even then, as we all know Moore can blow you away if he is on.

    Would love 2/3 but 1 out of 3 is more reasonable. Sabathia will really set the tone – it will be a major letdown, no matter how Price pitches, if Sabathia gives up a 4 or 5 run job when Tampa just scored 6 runs in a whole three game series against O’s (including an extra inning game.) On the other hand, if he actually outduels Price tonight, I can see that being a major impetus to us playing much better for the eighteen games that follow today’s game.

    I would love to see a study whether Tampa Bay defensive shifts do proportionally more harm against Yanks than it does other teams (like O’s and Blue Jays) = are we least able to adjust? We actually might look good because we do hit home runs that frustrate any shift. In looking at games, it seems we are always hitting right into shift(s).

    Nunez can be a key player this weekend – I always argue that we beat the Rays when we give them a taste of their own medicine – aggressive baserunning that may lead to Tampa errors.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I’m expecting to win 1 out of 3 and hope we don’t get swept.

      • dkidd

        same here

        not usually a pessimist, but nothing in the red sox series suggested they’ve turned a corner

        hoping to be proved wrong!

        • Kosmo

          I expect a sweep by NY

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I guess predicting a sweep touches upon some weird superstition on my part, but I’d rather predict a sweep than one out of fricking three.

    • David K.

      It ain’t your imagination dude, Tampa’s shifts kill us all the time. Most of our hitters could not adjust if their lives depended on it. And who is the guy who brought in all these one-dimensional jackasses? Cashman.

  • Kosmo

    Price hasn´t pitched in 12 days due to a sore shoulder. Hmmm this could play up big in NYs favor if Price still hasn´t fully recovered and/or he´s a little rusty.

  • MannyGeee
    • UpstateYanks

      love the clip, but not happening

  • Regis

    Going to Sunday’s game.

  • WhittakerWalt

    CC’s been mediocre at best his last three starts, and he’s struggled against the Rays and Price. I’ll be hoping for the best, but watching much of this game through my fingers.

  • FreeAgentSignee

    Go Yankees!