4/27 to 4/29 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

For the first time this season, the Yankees will play another club for the second time. They swept three games from the Rays at Tropicana Field last week and now Tampa Bay is coming to the Bronx for a three-game set starting tonight. The Yankees lucked out again and will miss Chris Archer. He started yesterday and has a 0.84 ERA (2.29 FIP) in five starts this year. Archer hasn’t allowed an earned run since Opening Day.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

The Rays are coming into this series riding a five-game winning streak — they took the last two games of their series with the Red Sox last week and swept the Blue Jays this weekend, all at home. They outscored Toronto and Boston 30-12 in the five games. Tampa Bay is 11-8 overall with a +5 run differential. They’re tied with the Yankees atop the AL East, though New York has the better run differential (+21).

Offense & Defense

So far this season rookie manager Kevin Cash’s offense is averaging 4.26 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+. The MLB averages this year are 4.16 runs per game and, well, a 100 wRC+. The Rays are slightly healthier than the last time these two teams played, but they’re still without IF Nick Franklin (oblique), C/DH John Jaso (wrist), and 2B Ryan Brett (shoulder).

Loney. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Loney. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Obviously 3B Evan Longoria (152 wRC+) is the star of the show in the middle of Tampa Bay’s lineup. He’s been getting a lot of help from 2B Logan Forsythe (135 wRC+), OF Kevin Kiermaier (146 wRC+), and OF Steven Souza (141 wRC+) in the early going. 1B James Loney (217 wRC+ in very limited time), who was injured the last time these two teams played, is a Grade-A Yankees killer. He’s hit .351/.397/.511 in 45 career games against the Bombers and .282/.337/.412 against everyone else.

Among those doing solid work in platoon roles are IF Tim Beckham (162 wRC+), OF Brandon Guyer (135 wRC+), and OF David DeJesus (172 wRC+). Beckham has 37.5 K% and a .435 BABIP. Something has to give. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (52 wRC+) has been a drain on the offense so far, as have OF Desmond Jennings (65 wRC+) and C Rene Rivera (23 wRC+). C Bobby Wilson and IF Jake Elmore round out the bench.

Defensively, the Rays are at their best in the outfield thanks mostly to Jennings and Kiermaier. Souza is a quality defender as well but he’s not at the same level as the other two. Longoria and Loney are excellent on the infield corners but Asdrubal and the Forsythe/Beckham tandem on the middle infield are really shaky. Not Mets caliber shaky, but shaky. Rivera is a top of the line pitch-framer and about average at everything else behind the dish. Tampa is a very good defensive club despite the eyesore on the middle infield.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. TB) vs. RHP Nate Karns (Career vs. NYY)
The Yankees got a look at the 27-year-old Karns last week, when he held them to two runs on two hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked four. Karns has a 5.32 ERA (6.14 FIP) in four starts and 23.2 innings this year with mediocre strikeout (19.8%) and walk (13.9%) rates and an awful homer rate (1.90 HR/9). He does get grounders though (48.4%), so when teams square him up, they hit it a long way. Righties (.350 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.314 wOBA) in the early going. Karns uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to set up his big breaking low-80s curveball, the pitch that is the reason he is in the big leagues. He also throws a mid-80s changeup.

Tuesday: RHP Chase Whitley (Career vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (Career vs. NYY)
Odorizzi, 25, may have improved his long-term outlook more than any other pitcher over the last 18 months or so. He has a 1.65 ERA (2.43 FIP) in 27.1 innings across four starts in 2015 with good peripherals — 21.6 K%, 7.8 BB%, 42.3 GB%, no homers allowed — and no platoon split. Odorizzi improved his stock by learning a filthy mid-80s splitter from teammate Alex Cobb. It gave him the swing-and-miss pitch he needed to be anything more than a back-end starter. He also throws low-90s four-seamers, mid-80s cutters, and a few slow upper-60s curveballs. It’s almost like an eephus pitch. The Yankees saw Odorizzi last weekend and scored three runs in six innings. He did strike out nine though, including six with the splitter. Whitley is coming up to make the spot start for the Yankees tomorrow, in case you missed it yesterday.

Smyly. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Smyly. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (Career vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (Career vs. NYY)
Smyly was one of the pieces of the David Price trade last summer and he was excellent after arriving in Tampa Bay, pitching to a 1.70 ERA (3.07 FIP) in seven starts and 47.2 innings down the stretch. The 25-year-old southpaw came down with shoulder tendinitis in Spring Training and returned to the rotation last week, holding the Blue Jays to two runs in 4.2 innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Smyly throws both two and four-seamer fastballs in the upper-80s/low-90s as well as a mid-80s cutter. An upper-70s curveball is his top offspeed pitch and he uses a low-80s changeup against righties. The Rays held Smyly to an 80-pitch limit in his first start last week and I’m sure he’ll have some sort of cap Wednesday since he’s just returning from a shoulder scare.

Bullpen Status
Archer gave the Rays seven innings yesterday and all their key relievers got the afternoon off, so Cash’s bullpen is in good shape. RHP Matt Andriese (4.13 FIP) threw two innings as the only reliever used. RHP Brad Boxberger (1.01 FIP) is the relief ace — Cash has used him mostly as the closer but did bring him into a game in the seventh inning last week to face the heart of the Red Sox order in a big spot and put out a potentially big fire. RHP Kevin Jepsen (1.68 FIP) is the team’s other high-leverage reliever.

RHP Ernesto Frieri (7.78 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (1.47 FIP), and RHP Steve Geltz (4.35 FIP) are Tampa Bay’s middle innings righties. Frieri has allowed three homers in 8.2 innings this year and 25 homers in 119 innings since the start of 2013 (1.9 HR/9). He throws hard but man, when he makes a mistake, it gets hit a mile. LHP Everett Teaford was just called up and is the only southpaw in the bullpen. He has yet to appear in a game. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen them head over to DRays Bay and The Process Report for some great analysis of the Rays.

Yankeemetrics: April 24-26 (Mets)

We love to hit homers! (Photo: NJ.com)
We love to hit homers! (Photo: NJ.com)

The two hottest teams in baseball met in the Bronx on Friday night but only one left the stadium with their win streak intact. The Yankees handed the Mets their first loss in 12 games and won their fourth game in a row, taking the opener of the first-ever edition of the Subway Series between two first-place teams.

Mark Teixeira provided nearly all of the offense, hitting two homers and driving in four of the Yankees six runs. He joined Tony Clark (2004) as the only Yankee first baseman with a multi-homer game against the Mets.

Following Friday’s game, Tex had 12 hits and 11 of those were for extra bases (seven homers, four doubles). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is just the second player since 1900 that had at least 11 extra base hits among his first 12 hits of the season. Adam Dunn did it for the Reds in 2005.

Michael Pineda delivered an ace-like performance, allowing one run on five hits while pitching into the eighth inning. He pounded the strike zone all night, throwing 78 of his 100 pitches for strikes. That is a career-high number of strikes for Pineda, and also the highest strike percentage (min. 100 pitches) by any Yankee pitcher since Randy Johnson threw 86 strikes among his 110 pitches (78.2 percent) on June 16, 2005 against the Pirates.

Large Lefty comes up small
Coming off a vintage performance against the Tigers (8 IP, 2 R) and facing a team he has dominated in his career (2.14 ERA in five starts), CC Sabathia entered Saturday’s matchup vs. the Mets looking to clinch the series for the Yankees. Instead, he had his worst outing of the season and fell to 0-4 in four starts this year.

Sabathia is the second Yankee in the last 30 years to lose his first four starts of the season. Kevin Brown also went 0-4 in his first four outings of the 2005 season. The last Yankee southpaw to do it was Fritz Peterson in 1972. Sabathia also extended his winless streak to seven starts dating back to last year, the longest such drought of his career.

The lone highlight for the Yankees was once again Teixeira, who went 3-for-4 and clubbed another homer. That gave him eight home runs in the team’s first 18 games, a feat achieved by only five other Yankees: Alex Rodriguez (2007), Graig Nettles (1974), Mickey Mantle (1956, 1961), Yogi Berra (1956), Babe Ruth (1921).

Matt Harvey dominated the Yankees lineup for the second time in two career starts against the team he rooted for as a kid growing up in Connecticut. He is one of two pitchers in the last 100 years with at least eight innings pitched, seven strikeouts and no more than two runs allowed in each of his first two career games against the Yankees. The other is Ray Culp, who did it for the Red Sox in 1968.

What a relief
The Yankees earned bragging rights in New York City with a 6-4 victory on Sunday night, giving them the Subway Series win. The hero of the game was the bullpen, which threw 4 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings after starter Nathan Eovaldi got rocked by the Mets.

Andrew Miller, the team’s fifth reliever of the game, closed out the win with a scoreless ninth inning for his seventh save of the season in seven tries. Since saves became an official statistic in 1969, he is now the first pitcher to convert his first seven save chances in a Yankee uniform, without allowing more than one hit in each of those games.

This was not a pretty game from a defensive standpoint. The Mets committed four errors in the game, the most they’ve ever had in a game against the Yankees, and the home team also committed two errors. The six combined errors is one shy of the record for a Subway Series game, set on May 20, 2006 when the Yankees had four and the Mets had three.

Alex Rodriguez drove in the Yankees first run with his 659th career homer. So when’s he gonna hit the next one to tie Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list? Facing the pressure of reaching a couple other milestones, he went 51 plate appearances between No. 599 and 600, and 37 plate appearances between No. 499 and 500.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 27th, 2015

Record Last Week: 5-2 (35 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 11-8 (99 RS, 82 RA, 11-8 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Red Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

A-Rod homers, Yanks take Subway Series rubber game 6-4

Source: FanGraphs

We play today, we win today, das it. The Yankees won their third straight series Sunday night with a 6-4 win over the Mets in the rubber game of the Subway Series. They’ve won eight of their last ten games after dropping six of their first nine. Things are going pretty, pretty well right now. It’s Sunday night, so I’m going with bullet points:

  • Not Good Nate: Nathan Eovaldi pitched so poorly Sunday he could have been confused for a Red Sox starter. Four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings doesn’t really tell the story. Eovaldi threw 87 pitches but first pitch strikes to only eleven of 20 batters faced, and Mets hitters fouled off 19 total pitches, including seven in two-strike counts. Nate looked pretty good in his first three starts but his fastball location was non-existent Sunday. It’s easy to hate but based on what we saw in his first three starts, I think this was just one of those nights. It happens.
  • Also Not Good Niese: Thankfully, Jon Niese actually out-stunk Eovaldi on Sunday. Alex Rodriguez got the Yankees on the board with a first inning solo homer — it hit the very top of the wall in right center and hopped over — and a barrage of doubles followed in the second. John Ryan Murphy, Gregorio Petit, Brett Gardner, and A-Rod all had two-baggers — Chris Young mixed in a single — to score four runs in the inning. All four runs scored with two outs too. Niese allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk in five innings. Seven of the first dozen men he faced reached base and five had extra-base hits.
  • Battle of the Bullpens: It’s amazing. Joe Girardi used five relievers to get 14 total outs and everyone he brought out of the bullpen seemed to be nastier than the guy he relieved. Chasen Shreve got a double play to bail out Eovaldi in the fifth, Chris Martin got five stress-free outs, Justin Wilson got his lefty (Curtis Granderson), and then Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller did their things in the eighth and ninth. Dellin was particularly nasty — he was one strike away from a four-strikeout inning. The five relievers combined: 4.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HB. Domination.
  • Leftovers: A-Rod’s homer was the 659th of his career. One more to tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list … the top three hitters in the lineup went 5-for-12 (.417) with two doubles, a homer, and four runs driven in … John Ryan Murphy had another really good game, going 2-for-3 with a double and making some stellar blocks on pitches in the dirt … Carlos Beltran went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and somehow looks worse now that he did the first week of the season … the Yankees have scored 5+ runs in 11 of their 19 games. They didn’t have their 11th 5+ run game until game 29 last year.
  • Late Add: This play was ridiculous. It’s been a long, long time since the Yankees had a middle infield capable of getting the lead runner on a play like that.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankee Stadium portion of the Subway Series is over — they’ll play three games at Citi Field in September — and now the Rays are coming to the Bronx for a three-game set. Adam Warren and Nate Karns will be the pitching matchup in Monday’s opener.

Game 19: Rubber Game

(Nate Shron/Getty)
(Nate Shron/Getty)

The Yankees and Mets split the first two games of the Subway Series and the games were pretty similar — one team beat up on the other team’s starter and put the game out of reach early. My guess is we’ll see a much closer game tonight. Just a guess. Here is the Mets’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Stephen Drew
  9. 2B Gregorio Petit
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It was really nice out in New York earlier today but it got pretty cloudy by the late afternoon. There’s no rain in the forecast or anything like that though. Tonight’s game will begin just after 8pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (hip tightness) is feeling better but Joe Girardi told reporters he wants to give him an extra day. They’re planning to have him back in the lineup tomorrow … Brendan Ryan (calf) will begin playing in Extended Spring Training games next week.

Chase Whitley to be called up to make spot start Tuesday

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Right-hander Chase Whitley will be called up to make a spot start this coming Tuesday, Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. The Yankees have been talking about using an occasional sixth starter to give the rotation extra rest whenever possible for weeks now, and this will be the first time they actually do it.

Nathan Eovaldi is starting tonight and Adam Warren will start tomorrow, in the series opener against the Rays. With Whitley going Tuesday, it means Masahiro Tanaka will pitch Wednesday and Michael Pineda will start the series opener at Fenway Park on Friday. Thanks to Whitley and Thursday’s off-day, Pineda will have two extra days of rest.

Whitley, 25, has a 2.12 ERA (2.85 FIP) in three starts and 17 innings for Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s thrown as many as 89 pitches in a game this year and will be on one extra day of rest Tuesday. Whitley had a 4.60 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 12 big league starts last year, but the first seven were great (2.56 ERA and 2.74 FIP) and the last five were awful (8.18 ERA and 5.36 FIP).

It’ll be interesting to see how the Yankees get Whitley onto the roster. Send down Chase Shreve then call up, say, Branden Pinder or Matt Tracy after the spot start? The Yankees have no shortage of bullpen call-up options. It could simply come down to who is rested and ready to pitch Wednesday, assuming Whitley does go back down after the spot start.

DotF: Pirela begins rehab assignment, Judge and Bird hit back-to-back homers in Trenton’s win

UTIL Jose Pirela has been added to the High-A Tampa roster, the team announced. This officially kicks off his 20-day minor league rehab window. Also, RHP Andrew Bailey was assigned to Extended Spring Training. Not sure what’s going on there.

Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Pawtucket)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-4, 2 R, 1 BB — on base 14 times in his last six games with zero strikeouts
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — 5-for-8 (.625) after an 0-for-15 slump
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB — in a 4-for-32 (.125) slump
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 PB
  • LHP Matt Tracy: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 5/3 GB/FB — 31 of 45 pitches were strikes (69%) … this is only his second appearance of the year because he’d been stuck in DFA limbo for a while
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 6/1 GB/FB – 27 of 42 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 17 pitches were strikes (53%) … left the game after being hit by a comebacker in the leg, according to Donnie Collins … he wasn’t limping and it appeared to be precautionary
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 15 of 21 pitches were strikes (71%)

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