Barring something statistically impossible happening, Tampa Bay will be the last .500 or better team that the Yankees face until they head to Oakland on September 3. That sounds like good news, right?
The Last Time They Met
The Yankees visited Tampa Bay three weeks ago, and dropped two out of three. Both of their losses came by one run, which will never not be frustrating. Some notes from the series:
- The first game is probably the most notable, as it was the ‘lack of hustle‘ game for Gary Sanchez. He was, of course, placed on the disabled list the next day due to a re-aggravated groin injury, and has not played since.
- Masahiro Tanaka was brilliant in the second game, tossing a complete game shutout and striking out 9. Only four Rays reached base, three via single and one by a walk. Tanaka threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of 29 batters, and had a 16-to-2 grounder-to-flyball ratio.
- Miguel Andujar had two hits in each of the three games.
Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.
Jose De Leon is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery, and Daniel Robertson (thumb surgery) is probably done, too. Jake Faria, Wilmer Font, Vidal Nuno, and the newly acquired Tommy Pham are all out, as well, and none are likely to be back for this series.
Their Story So Far
The Rays are 60-58 with a +11 run differential, and are currently third in the AL East. They have an extremely outside shot of reaching the playoffs as a Wild Card team, as they currently sit ten-games back of the A’s, but it’s not terribly likely. And they sold at the trade deadline, sending Wilson Ramos to the Phillies, Chris Archer to the Pirates, and Jonny Venters to the Braves, so it’s not as though they’re making a push for that spot, either.
Regardless, the story of their season was locked-in long ago with their decision to utilize openers this season. It may’ve been a matter of necessity, given all of their injuries, but a few organizations are doing the same thing in the minors, so this might not be the last we’ve heard of it.
The Lineup We Might See
Tampa Bay’s lineup is constantly in a state of flux. They’ve used a minimum of eight different batters in every slot in the lineup, as manager Kevin Cash is constantly tinkering. They play match-ups and right the hot hand, which leads to a great deal of maneuvering. That being said, we’ll probably see something close to this:
- Mallex Smith, RF – .296/.370/.415, 1 HR, 25 SB, 122 OPS+
- Matt Duffy, 3B – .299/.352/.379, 4 HR, 8 SB, 107 OPS+
- Jake Bauers, LF- .227/.336/.454, 9 HR, 4 SB, 120 OPS+
- C.J. Cron, 1B – .247/.317/.469, 22 HR, 1 SB, 118 OPS+
- Joey Wendle, 2B – .294/.345/.417, 6 HR, 8 SB, 114 OPS+
- Ji-Man Choi, DH – .228/.294/.446, 5 HR, 0 SB, 101 OPS+
- Kevin Kiermaier, CF – .178/.250/.294, 4 HR, 8 SB, 53 OPS+
- Willy Adames, SS – .250/.297/.375, 5 HR, 5 SB, 88 OPS+
- Jesus Sucre, C – .215/.257/.246, 0 HR, 1 SB, 44 OPS+
Michael Perez (153 OPS+ in 37 PA) will get a start or two behind the dish.
The Starting Pitchers We Will See
Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP J.A. Happ vs. RHP Hunter Wood
A right-handed rookie, Wood has a 3.91 ERA (3.87 FIP) in 25.1 IP this season, with lots of strikeouts (26.8%), walks (11.6%), and grounders (47.8%). This will be his seventh start (opening?) of the season; his season-high for pitches thus far is 45, which occurred on July 29. He pitched against the Yankees on July 23, tossing two innings and allowing one run.
Wood is a four-pitch guy, with a mid-90s four-seamer, high-80s cutter, mid-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curve.
Last outing (vs. TOR on 8/11) – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. TBA
If the Rays follow their rotation, this start should go to Blake Snell.
Snell missed a start or two with shoulder fatigue last month, and the Rays have been justifiably cautious as a result. He has thrown just 9 innings in his two starts since returning from the DL, throwing a combined 106 pitches. He left his last start after the fifth inning, despite being in the midst of a perfect game. Snell has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, pitching to a 2.18 ERA (183 ERA+) in 128.0 IP.
Last outing (vs. TOR on 8/10) – 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K
Thursday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. TBA
And this might be Ryne Stanek, who the Yankees are quite familiar with this season. Stanek has appeared in five games against the Yankees this year, pitching to the following line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He’s been excellent this season on the whole, pitching to a 2.45 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 47.2 IP, with a 33.0% strikeout rate.
Last outing (vs. TOR on 8/12) – 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
The Rays bullpen has struggled in the second-half, likely owing to the fact that the group has worked the most innings in the majors by more than 100 IP over the next closest team – and that doesn’t include the inning or two per game that the openers go. They have a 4.68 ERA in 127.0 IP as a group since the break, and their home run, walk, and groundball rates have all trended in the wrong direction by significant margins.
Sergio Romo has emerged as the closer, with Jose Alvarado serving as the other late-innings option. Ryan Yarborough serves as the long reliever, so we’ll probably see him step in on one of the non-Snell days.
Who (Or What) To Watch
The Yankees are 6-6 against Tampa this year, despite having outscored them by 15 runs. The Rays have a habit of being incredibly annoying, so it bears watching just to see if the Yankees can take care of business against an inferior team at home. And Boston is facing a surprisingly strong Phillies team, so this could be an opportunity to gain a bit of ground.