Archive for Tampa Bay Rays
The Yankees aren’t on the road anymore, but that doesn’t mean the second half schedule gets any easier. The Rays are the hottest team in baseball and they’re in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. New York and Tampa have split ten games this year with the Yankees outscoring their division rivals 44-38. No, really.
What Have They Done Lately?
Like I said, the Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now. They were rained out yesterday, but they took two of three from the Red Sox in Fenway Park before that and have won 19 of their last 22 (!) games overall. At 60-42 with a +68 run differential, Tampa is a half-game back of Boston in the AL East with the fourth best record in baseball.
Unlike the last few years, manager Joe Maddon has an above-average lineup at his disposal. The Rays average 4.7 runs per game with a team 111 wRC+, the seventh and second best marks in baseball, respectively. Tampa is perfectly healthy on offense, not a single regular position player on the DL.
As usual, the focal point of Maddon’s offense is 3B Evan Longoria (140 wRC+). He’s a monster. 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (113 wRC+), DH Luke Scott (135 wRC), OF Wil Myers (134 wRC+ in limited time), 1B James Loney (130 wRC+), 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (121 wRC+), OF Desmond Jennings (118 wRC+), and OF Matt Joyce (112 wRC+) are all above-average contributors as well. That’s eight players as good or better than the Yankees second best hitter (Brett Gardner has a 112 wRC+).
The rest of the roster includes SS Yunel Escobar (90 wRC+), UTIL Sean Rodriguez (100 wRC+ in limited time), OF Sam Fuld (55 wRC+ in limited time), and the tandem of C Jose Molina (73 wRC+) and C Jose Lobaton (98 wRC+). They split time behind the plate almost 50/50. Tampa is a top ten homer-hitting team (seventh with 115), but they’re just middle of the pack with 56 steals. These aren’t your older brother’s Rays anymore, they can hit.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
The Yankees caught a bit of a bad break with Tampa’s rainout yesterday, because instead of facing the eminently beatable Roberto Hernandez on Sunday, they will instead face the 26-year-old Hellickson tonight. He’s got a 4.62 ERA (3.85 FIP) with solid peripherals: 7.34 K/9 (20.0 K%), 2.13 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), 1.17 HR/9 (11.1% HR/FB), and 40.8% grounders. The one they call Hellboy outperformed his peripherals the last two years, but now he’s underperforming them for some reason. A 68.2% strand rate (78.9% career) will do that to a guy. Hellickson’s top pitch is a fading upper-70s changeup that he throws nearly 30% of the time. Low-90s two and four-seam fastballs set it up. He’ll also throw a mid-to-upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen Hellickson a few times over the years and he’s generally handled them well.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Chris Archer
Another year, another Rays pitching prospect emerges at the big league level. This year it is the 24-year-old Archer, who has a 2.76 ERA (4.29 FIP) in ten starts. He is getting grounders (46.2%) and limiting homers (0.77 HR/9 and 7.9% HR/FB), but his strikeout (6.29 K/9 and 16.9 K%) and walk (3.84 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) numbers leave something to be desired. Archer has shown four pitches this year, though his mid-90s four-seamer and wipeout mid-80s slider are his calling cards. He’ll also throw a low-to-mid-80s two-seamer and a low-to-mid-80s changeup. It’s worth noting that Archer has a massive platoon split this year, holding righties to a .223 wOBA while lefties have tagged him for a .321 wOBA. He started against the Yankees late last month and held them to one run in six innings.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore, 24, has a 3.17 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 20 starts this year but he’s been dynamite of late, allowing four total runs in his last five starts (35.2 innings). His strikeout (8.66 K/9 and 23.1 K%) and homer (0.62 HR/9 and 6.2% HR/FB) rates are very good, but the walk (4.33 BB/9 and 11.5 BB%) and ground ball (39.0%) numbers leave something to be desired. Moore’s fastball velocity has dropped off this year, but he still sits comfortably around 92-93 mph with his twojust and four-seamers. His low-80s slurve — it’s more slider than curve at this point — and low-80s changeup are both legit put-away pitches. He’s got nasty, nasty stuff. The Yankees have seen Moore a few times since he broke into the league in late-2011, including three times this year. I suppose the good news is that each of those three starts has gotten progressively worse: one run in eight innings in April, one run in six innings in May, and three runs in six innings in July. Hopefully that trend continues.
Maddon’s bullpen is very well-rested coming into the series. Not only were the rained out yesterday, but David Price threw a complete-game on Wednesday and Moore threw a complete game on Monday. Their relievers have only had to work in just one of the last four days. Lucky them.
RHP Fernando Rodney (3.21 FIP) is the closer and has settled down after a rough start to the season. RHP Joel Peralta (3.55 FIP) is his primary setup man, and the Rays have an excellent pair of power southpaws in LHP Jake McGee (3.49 FIP) and LHP Alex Torres (1.70 FIP). Torres has been close to unhittable. RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.60 FIP), LHP Cesar Ramos (3.19 FIP), and the steady RHP Jamey Wright (3.09 FIP) round out the relief corps.
The Yankees are in decent bullpen shape. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera pitched yesterday, but everyone else should be good to go. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for a look at the team’s recent … bullpen workload. DRays Bay and Process Report are my go-to Rays blogs.
After two series in Tampa earlier this year, it’s time for the Rays to come to New York. They’re in town for four pretty important games this weekend, at least important by mid-June standards. The Rays have a chance to climb back into the AL East race and the Yankees have a chance to push their division rivals even further out of the picture.
What Have They Done Lately?
Although they beat the Red Sox last night, Tampa Bay has lost six of their last eight and eight of their last eleven games. Every time it looks like they’re ready to go off a little run, they run into a wall and slump for two weeks. At 37-35 with a +13 run differential, the Rays sit in fourth place in the AL East, three back of the Yankees in the loss column. So yeah, kind of an important series this weekend.
Joe Maddon’s club averages 4.7 runs per game with a team 110 wRC+, both of which are a top-six mark in baseball. When was the last time Yankees fans were jealous of the Tampa offense? Never, right? Anyway, Maddon’s lineup is perfectly healthy. They don’t have any position players on the DL.
As always, the Rays’ attack starts with 3B Evan Longoria (150 wRC+). He’s the centerpiece. OF Matt Joyce (141 wRC+) and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (116 wRC+) have been a nice supporting cast, ditto 1B James Loney (132 wRC+) and 2B/OF Kelly Johnson (117 wRC+). Loney has cooled down following the ridiculously hot start, thankfully. That’s five well-above-average hitters in the everyday lineup.
Tampa just called up top prospect OF Wil Myers (9 wRC+ in very limited time), which theoretically gives them another above-average bat. Of course, he’s a rookie and we need to see him actually do it first. DH Luke Scott (103 wRC+) and CF Desmond Jennings (108 wRC+) have picked it up of late, and IF Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) has done well in a platoon role. C Jose Lobaton (119 wRC+) and C Jose Molina (80 wRC+) split time behind the plate, SS Yunel Escobar (84 wRC+) stays in the lineup because of his glove, and OF Sam Fuld (44 wRC+) is the grittiest little fifth outfielder in all the land. The Rays can score runs, this is a very good and very deep lineup.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Matt Moore
Remember when Moore was in the middle of breaking out as one of the best pitchers in baseball a few weeks back? The 24-year-old has allowed 20 runs in his last three starts (12.1 innings) to raise his season ERA to 4.12 (4.32 FIP). His strikeout rate (8.23 K/9 and 20.8 K%) is very good and his homer rate (0.97 HR/9 and 8.7% HR/FB) is fine, but he walks too many batters (4.72 BB/9 and 11.9 BB%) and doesn’t get many ground balls (36.3%). Moore sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his two- and four-seam fastballs, backing them up with mid-80s changeups and low-80s sliders. Unlike last season, he doesn’t have a platoon split in 2013. The Yankees have seen more twice this year and scored one run each time, first in eight innings and then in six innings.
Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Robert Hernandez
Hernandez, 32, is the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona. He owns a a 5.02 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 13 starts this year, though he is very homer prone (1.43 HR/9 and 20.0% HR/FB) despite a very good 50.0% ground ball rate. The strikeout (7.77 K/9 and 19.6 K%) and walk (2.39 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) rates are better than average. Hernandez lives and dies with his low-90s sinker, though the Rays have him throwing his mid-80s changeup more than ever before. A low-80s slider is his third pitch. The Yankees saw Fauxto a few weeks ago and hung five runs on him in four innings.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. TBA
This rotation spot belongs to right-hander Alex Cobb, but he was placed on the DL a few days ago after taking a line drive to the head. It was a scary scene. The Rays are expected to called up 24-year-old right-hander Alex Colome to make this start, which would be his second as a big leaguer. He struck out seven Marlins in 5.2 innings of one-run ball at the end of last month. Colome is a three-pitch pitcher, sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball and the upper-80s with his slider. He did throw a curveball once upon a time, but the slider is his go-to breaking ball now. A mid-80s changeup rounds out his power repertoire. Colome has never faced the Yankees, obviously.
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Chris Archer
Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price has been on the DL for more than a month now, and the 24-year-old Archer has laid claim to his rotation spot. He was acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade a few years back, and this year he has pitched to a 5.03 ERA (5.50 FIP) in four starts. Archer has piled up some strikeouts (8.24 K/9 and 19.8 K%) and gotten some ground balls (44.8%), but he’s walked way too many batters (6.41 BB/9 and 15.4 BB%) and given up a bunch of homers (1.37 HR/9 and 17.6% HR/FB). His four-pitch mix includes two mid-90s fastballs (two- and four-seamer), a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s changeup. Having seen his recent starts, I can tell you Archer is a very emotional guy on the mound with body language that will let you know how he feels after every pitch. It’s tiresome. He’s never faced the Yankees before.
As for New York, they will need to dig up a starter for this game thanks to Tuesday’s rainout. They could start Hiroki Kuroda or Phil Hughes on the three days’ rest, but that seems unnecessary in the middle of June. Maybe in September when the games mean a little more. Brett Marshall is scheduled to start Sunday for Triple-A Scranton, but he’s been a disaster this season. Ivan Nova is scheduled to start Friday, so I’m guessing they’ll just push him back two days and call him up for the spot start.
Maddon’s bullpen is a little taxed thanks in part to Tuesday’s doubleheader, but nothing crazy. RHP Fernando Rodney (4.23 FIP) has turned it around following a real rough patch a few weeks ago, and setup men RHP Joel Peralta (3.44 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (3.46 FIP) have been solid of late as well. Former Yankees RHP Kyle Farnsworth (5.34 FIP) joins LHP Cesar Ramos (3.11 FIP) and LHP Alex Torres (1.25 FIP in limited time) in middle relief. Both Ramos and Torres can throw multiple innings, they aren’t just specialists. The perpetually solid and under-rated RHP Jamey Wright (3.41 FIP) rounds out the bullpen. Peralta is the only guy to have pitched in each of the last two days.
The Yankees meanwhile, are in decent shape following yesterday’s doubleheader. Adam Warren probably needs a day or two of rest following his three-inning, 37-pitch relief outing last night, but otherwise everyone is well-rested thanks to Monday’s off-day and Tuesday’s rainout. You can see the recent reliever usage at our Bullpen Workload page. Check out DRays Bay and Process Report for the latest and greatest on the Rays.
For the second time this year, the Yankees are at their home away from home in Tampa. They lost two of three to the Rays at Tropicana Field about a month ago, the only other time these two teams have played in 2013. Believe it or not, this is a pretty important series for both clubs. Important for late-May, anyway.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays kinda stink. They just lost two of three to the Blue Jays to drop their season record to 24-22 with a +11 run differential. Before the Toronto series, they won nine of eleven. Tampa currently sits in fourth place in the AL East, four games back of the Bombers for the top spot.
Believe it or not, the Rays are one the top offensive teams in baseball. They average 4.8 runs per game with a team 110 wRC+, and both rank as top-six marks in all of baseball. Tampa’s offense is healthy outside of OF Matt Joyce (130 wRC+), who is day-to-day while nursing a hamstring issue. He could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.
As always, manager Joe Maddon’s lineup is anchored by 3B Evan Longoria (171 wRC+) and 2B/OF Ben Zobrist (105 wRC+). This year they’re getting a lot of help from 2B Kelly Johnson (128 wRC+), who plays primarily against righties, and 1B James Loney (150 wRC+). Yes, Loney is really hitting .350/.405/.497. And you thought Lyle Overbay was exceeding expectations. DH Luke Scott (149 wRC+) has performed well since coming off the DL a few weeks ago.
OF Desmond Jennings (92 wRC+) hasn’t been any good as the leadoff man, but UTIL Sean Rodriguez (111 wRC+) and IF Ryan Roberts (94 wRC+) have done fine in their limited platoon roles. SS Yunel Escobar (76 wRC+) and OF Sam Fuld (42 wRC+) have been terrible. Former Yankee C Jose Molina (69 wRC+) and C Jose Lobaton (88 wRC+) sharing catching duties. The Rays don’t steal as many bases as they once did (only 21 this year), but they don’t need to because the lineup is deeper and more powerful.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Roberto Hernandez
The pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona has been predictably awful this year, pitching to a 5.24 ERA and 4.98 FIP in eight starts. His underlying performance has actually been outstanding — 8.46 K/9 (21.2 K%), 2.62 BB/9 (6.6 BB%), and 53.3% grounders — but he’s insanely homer prone (1.81 HR/9 and 25.0% HR/FB) and has been a few years now. The 32-year-old Hernandez lives off his trademark low-90s sinker and the Rays have him throwing his mid-80s changeup nearly 30% of the time, way more than he ever has before. A low-to-mid-80s slider rounds out the repertoire. It’s worth noting Fauxsto has a massive platoon split, holding righties to a .268 wOBA while lefties tag him for a .400 wOBA. That’s good for the Yankees, who have seen Hernandez plenty over the years.
Saturday: LHP Vidal Nuno vs. LHP Matt Moore
Moore, 23, is starting to live up to the hype as the next great Rays pitcher by going 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA in his first nine starts. Of course, his FIP sits at a much less impressive 4.20 because he walks a ton of guys (4.25 BB/9 and 11.6 BB%) and will serve up the long ball (1.15 HR/9 and 10.8% HR/FB). In fact, when you add in his strikeout (8.84 K/9 and 24.0 K%) and ground ball (36.0%) rates, basically all of his peripherals stats have taken a step back from last season. The joys of a .197 BABIP, eh? Moore is a true-three pitch pitcher who uses a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer to set up mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. He will beat himself with walks if given the opportunity, but this Yankees lineup is one of the least patience in the game. They’ve seen Moore a few times since he broke in late in 2011, and they actually roughed him up good last summer.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Alex Cobb
This spot was supposed to belong to rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi, but the Rays took advantage of yesterday’s off-day and flipped him with the 25-year-old Cobb. Cobb has been very good this year, posting a 2.73 ERA (3.78 FIP) in nine starts with greatly improved peripherals: 8.19 K/9 (22.3 K%), 2.12 BB/9 (5.8 BB%), and 54.4% grounders. He is pretty homer prone (1.21 HR/9 and 19.5% HR/FB) like most of the Rays pitchers this year. I guess that’s the extra 2%. Cobb is a mid-80s changeup specialist, though not as extreme as former Ray Jamie Shields. He’ll set the change up with low-90s two- and four-seamers while backing it up with an upper-70s curveball. Cobb is pretty darn good, and he’s pitched very well against the New York every time he’s faced them.
As I mentioned, the Rays were off on Thursday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be. RHP Fernando Rodney (5.38 FIP) has been dreadful this year, so much so that he was yanked from his last appearance mid-inning before things could really spiral out of control. He hasn’t officially lost the closer’s job yet, but it won’t be long at this rate.
RHP Joel Peralta (2.62 FIP) is the backup plan at closer, and he has been Maddon’s most (only?) consistently reliable reliever this season. RHP Kyle Farnsworth (6.88 FIP) is cooked and LHP Jake McGee (5.15 FIP) has been unable to repeat last season’s success. RHP Jamey Wright (4.07 FIP) is his perpetually solid but unspectacular self while LHP Cesar Ramos (3.03 FIP) has done a nice job in a matchup role. Rapist RHP Josh Lueke (5.11 FIP) rounds out the bullpen. As a unit, the Tampa bullpen is a bottom-three unit with a 4.81 ERA (4.18 FIP).
The Yankees, meanwhile, are pretty well set in the bullpen outside of Adam Warren, who threw 60 pitches in long relief in Thursday and still needs at least one and probably two more days of rest before he’s available again. David Robertson and Boone Logan have both pitched in three of the last five days but should be fine for tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out DRays Bay and Process Report for the latest and greatest on the Yankees’ division rival to the south.
I wasn’t planning to continue the series previews this year, but apparently they were pretty popular. I wasn’t aware of that. So, back by popular demand…
This six-game road trip features six games on artificial turf, as the Yankees now head to Tampa for three games with the Rays after playing three games against the Blue Jays in Toronto. The Bombers and Fightin’ Maddons are meeting for the first time in 2013.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays are 8-10 with a -7 run differential this season, but they did just sweep a three-game series against the Athletics this weekend. After scoring 53 runs in their first 15 games (3.53 per game), they scored 17 runs in the three games against Oakland (5.67 per game).
Despite the big weekend, the Rays still own a below-average team 90 wRC+ that ranks as the eighth worst in baseball. Their only injured offensive player at the moment is DH Luke Scott, who has yet to play in a game this season.
Tampa’s overhauled offense features two familiar faces in the middle of the lineup: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist (122 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (142 wRC+). They’ve batted three-four pretty much everyday so far. Platoon bats 1B James Loney (146 wRC+) and former Yankee DH Shelley Duncan (106 wRC+) are off to nice starts. 2B Kelly Johnson (102 wRC+) and CF Desmond Jennings (101 wRC+) have basically been average in front of Zobrist and Longoria.
Manager Joe Maddon’s parade of part-timers includes IF Sean Rodriguez (89 wRC+) and IF Ryan Roberts (68 wRC+), who will start against lefties. OF Matt Joyce (62 wRC+) and OF Sam Fuld (-31 wRC+) get the call against lefties. SS Yunel Escobar (40 wRC+) plays everyday while pitch-framer extraordinaire C Jose Molina (85 wRC+) gets most of the starts behind the plate. C Jose Lobaton (10 wRC+) backs him up. Overall, the Rays are middle of the road when it comes to hitting homers (17), but they’ve been one of the league’s most prolific base-stealing clubs (13).
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Matt Moore
The 23-year-old Moore is off to a very strong start, allowing just two runs in 18 innings across his first three starts (1.00 ERA and 3.36 FIP). The strike out (10.0 K/9 and 27.8 K%) and ground ball (52.5%) rates are strong, but he has been a little too liberal with the free pass (5.50 BB/9 and 15.3 BB%). Like everyone else it seems, Moore’s velocity is down compared to last year, but he’s still sitting in the 91-94 mph range with the four-seamer. He’ll mix in the occasional two-seamer, but otherwise his primary secondary pitches are a low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen the southpaw a few times now, and they’ve both hit him hard and been shutdown. Little of both.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP David Price
Price, 27, is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, but he’s had two good (not great) and two poor (one awful) starts in the early going (6.26 ERA and 4.49 FIP). Outside of some early homer problems (1.96 HR/9), the left-hander’s peripherals are right in line with what he’s done in recent years: 8.22 K/9 (20.8 K%), 2.74 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), and 49.3 K% grounders. Price remains a low-to-mid-90s fastball machine, throwing a ton of four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters. An upper-70s curveball is his top offspeed pitch, but he’ll also use mid-80s changeups and sliders. We’ve all seen plenty of Price through the years, both the fans and the Yankees players. Should be no surprises here.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb has been a trendy breakout pick this year, and he’s managed a 2.53 ERA (3.21 FIP) in his three starts so far. He hasn’t missed a ton of bats in his relatively short big league career, something that has held true so far this season (6.33 K/9 and 17.2 K%). His walk (2.53 K/9 and 6.9 BB%) and ground ball (45.2%) rates are very strong, however. Cobb uses his two- and four-seamer almost evenly, and both sit in the 88-92 mph range. His best pitch is a knockout mid-80s changeup, which he’ll use in any count against righties and lefties. He’s very similar to the departed Jamie Shields in that regard. An upper-70s curveball rounds out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Cobb a handful of times these last two years and he’s handled them well each time.
Despite their strong rotation, the Rays rank among the AL leaders in total relief appearances (53) because of all the mixing and matching. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney has been very good again despite an early-season appearance that wrecked his pitching stat line (4.76 ERA and 5.67 FIP). Setup men RHP Joel Peralta (2.25 ERA and 2.02 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (7.36 ERA and 5.89 FIP) have both been dynamite — McGee allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning on Opening Day and has been whittling down his ERA ever since. He’s been untouchable of late.
Low-leverage guy RHP Brandon Gomes (4.70 ERA and 4.98 FIP) threw two innings yesterday and is presumably unavailable today. Former Yankee RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.50 ERA and 7.02 FIP) will see some late-game action, then they have LHP Cesar Ramos (8.31 ERA and 6.02 FIP) and long-time big leaguer RHP Jamey Wright (2.06 ERA and 3.86 FIP) filling out Maddon’s seven-man relief unit. Outside of David Phelps, everyone should be available for Joe Girardi in the series opener tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, we recommend DRays Bay and The Process Report.
11:30pm: It’s Shields, Davis, and either a player to be named later or cash for Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and infielder Pat Leonard. That one has “Royals GM Dayton Moore is trying to save his job” written all over it.
11:09pm: The exact details are still trickling in, but the Rays and Royals have agreed to a trade that will send both James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City for top prospects Wil Myers and others. Shields will be next to impossible to replace as a proven above-average AL East workhorse, but if anyone can do it, it’s Tampa Bay. Myers is one of the five best prospects in baseball and gives them a big bat to pair with Evan Longoria for the next six years. The 2013 Rays likely got worse, but the 2014+ versions got a lot better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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The Yankees will begin an important series against the Red Sox tonight, but another really important series will open some 400 miles south as well. The second place Orioles are hosting the third place Rays for three games this week, a series that will have a big impact on the AL East race one way or the other. Those clubs will also end the season with three games against each other in St. Pete. As I mentioned yesterday, both teams can’t win those games, and that’s good for New York.
Under the old playoff system, I probably would have rooting for either the Rays or Orioles to sweep all those games. It really wouldn’t have mattered who, the important thing would have been creating separation between the top two teams and the third team in the division. There wasn’t a significant enough advantage to winning the division over skating into the postseason as the wildcard under the old system, so just getting in was the focus. Clinch a postseason berth then worry about the division title was the annual mindset.
That isn’t the case anymore. Capturing that AL East crown is so much more important under the two wildcard system because no one wants to play a do-or-die, win or go home game to decide the season. That means the Yankees absolutely want both the Rays and O’s as far back as possible. Since both teams can’t sweep, the best thing for the Bombers would be for one of those two clubs to take two of three this week. Since Baltimore is one game back and Tampa two, it seems that the Rays taking two would help the Yankees the most. However, since most of us consider Joe Maddon’s club to be the bigger threat, maybe it would be better if the Orioles won the series. There’s no clear right answer here.
Either way, this is all predicated on the Yankees taking care of the Red Sox and everyone else they play from here on out. They have to start winning games consistently to maintain their slim lead. It just so happens that their top two competitors play more than one-quarter of their remaining games against each other, and they’ll theoretically hold each other back for the top spot in the division. The Yankees can only focus on winning their games, but us scoreboard watchers should be hoping that the neither the Rays or Orioles decides to whoop the other this week.
Despite last night’s win, the Yankees are still in the middle of a borderline disaster ten-game stretch that has seen them go just 2-4 in the first six games. Their big and comfortable AL East lead has disappeared and right now they’re just one game up with 26 to play. We’re used to the Yankees battling the Rays for the division crown, but the Orioles are new to the mix this season after 15 years of being non-competitive. Because of that recent history, it’s easy to write them off. Heck, I did it pretty much all season up until about two or three weeks ago.
In a lot of ways, these current Orioles are similar to the 2008 Rays, who just snuck up on everyone and became good all of a sudden. I think the young talent on that 2008 Tampa team — Evan Longoria, Jamie Shields, David Price, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford , etc. — is way more impressive than what they have going on in Baltimore, but Buck Showalter has his team in the race in early-September and they deserve a ton of credit for that, even if Nate McLouth is batting third.
It’s obvious this four-game weekend series with the Orioles has enormous division title implications, but we can’t forget that the Rays are right there as well. They’re three back in the division, one good weekend from taking over first place. All three of the AL East contenders have different strengths and weaknesses, and yet they’re all essentially in the same position with roughly four weeks to go. The Yankees are fortunate that because they’re currently in the lead, they control their own destiny and theoretically don’t need help from anyone else.
Anyway, with a few hours to go before first pitch tonight, I figured it was a good time to see who you folks consider to be the biggest threat to the Bombers in the division race. Both the O’s and Rays are dangerous but I personally believe one of those two clubs is more dangerous than the other. You might feel differently, so let’s find out…
Another day, another huge series. The Yankees fell on their face against the Orioles this weekend and now head to Florida to face the Rays, who sit four games back in the loss column. New York has won just five of 12 against Tampa this year, including just one of their last ten at Tropicana Field.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays wrecked Ricky Romero and the rest of the Blue Jays over the weekend, winning the last two after losing six of seven. At 73-61 with a +77 run differential, Tampa has the fifth best record and fourth best run differential in the league.
With a team 96 wRC+ and an average of 4.2 runs per game, the Rays are a slightly below-average offensive club. They recently welcomed Evan Longoria (132 wRC+) back from a lengthy DL stint and he’s obvious a huge, huge part of their lineup. He’s that legitimate, don’t let him beat you bat that they were sorely lacking in the first half.
Aside from Longoria, manager Joe Maddon’s best offensive weapons are Ben Zobrist (132 wRC), Matt Joyce (124 wRC+), and contact machine Jeff Keppinger (134 wRC+). Desmond Jennings (108 wRC+) and B.J. Upton (102 wRC+) have been a bit better than average, Luke Scott (93 wRC+) slightly below. Carlos Pena (91 wRC+) has really struggled in recent weeks and has started to lose playing time, but you know he’ll hit a homer or two this series. The Yankees haven’t figured out how to retire him yet. It’s only been six years, hard to blame them really.
The rest of the lineup is filled out by Ryan Roberts (76 wRC+), the recently acquired Ben Francisco (88 wRC+), the recently healthy Sam Fuld (122 wRC+ in limited time), and the punchless catching tandem of Jose Molina (65 wRC+) and Jose Lobaton (83 wRC+). September call-ups include the speedy Rich Thompson, third catcher Chris Gimenez, and flamed out former prospect Reid Brignac. The Rays usually get written off as having a poor offense, but Longoria, Joyce, Zobrist, and Keppinger can do a lot of damage in a hurry.
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jamie Shields
It’s been an up-and-down season for the 30-year-old Shields, who has pitched to a 3.91 ERA (3.70 FIP) overall but a 2.01 ERA (3.00 FIP) in his last half-dozen starts. The right-hander currently has career-high strikeout (8.70 K/9 and 22.7 K%), walk (2.42 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%) and ground ball (51.7%) rates among his six full big league seasons. Shields is a master at pitching backwards, using three fastballs — low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, upper-80s cutter — and three offspeed pitches — upper-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball — to keep hitters guessing. He’s had starts that range anywhere from bad to good to great against the Yankees both this year and throughout his career. There’s no mystery here, both sides are familiar with each other.
Tuesday: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb, 24, stepped into the rotation when Jeff Niemann broke his leg earlier this season and he’s basically taken his job. The right-hander owns a 4.39 ERA (3.61 FIP) in 18 starts and 106.2 innings this year, relying more on grounders (57.0%) and limiting walks (2.45 BB/9 and 16.4 K%) than missing bats (6.67 K/9 and 17.5 K%). Cobb relies heavily on his two-seam fastball that sits right around 90, though he will mix in a few straight four-seamers at the same velocity. Lefties get his low-80s changeup, righties his upper-70s curve. The Yankees saw Cobb earlier this season, hanging four runs on him in seven innings.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Matt Moore
You won’t find many 23-year-olds with better arms than Moore, who has more than held his own (3.58 ERA and 3.85 FIP) during his first full season in the big leagues. The walks (3.98 BB/9 and 10.4 BB%) are a bit high but that’s nothing unusual for a rookie in the AL East. Moore is missing plenty of bats (8.77 K/9 and 22.9 K%) and getting a lot of easy-to-catch fly balls (38.% grounders). The left-hander throws some of the easiest mid-90s gas in the league, backing up the heater with low-90s slider and a mid-80s changeup. For whatever reason, Moore has a pretty drastic reverse split (lefties have gotten him for a .343 wOBA, righties just .299). It’s just weird, you’d expect him to own lefties. Anyway, the Yankees scored three runs in seven innings off the rookie earlier this season.
Expanded rosters means everyone has a few fresh relievers nowadays, but the core late-game guys are the most important. Lights-out closer Fernando Rodney (2.80 FIP) has been the best reliever in the AL this season, and he was able to take yesterday’s game off following a five-out save on Saturday. Setup man Joel Peralta (3.28 FIP) has had some rough moments this season, but former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth (2.70 FIP) will lend a helping hand.
From the left side, the Yankees will have to deal with the hard-throwing Jake McGee (2.28 FIP) and the soft-tossing J.P. Howell (4.34 FIP). Former starter Wade Davis (3.29 FIP) seems to have found a niche as a multi-inning middle reliever, and ground ball machine Burke Badenhop (3.79 FIP) is the need-a-double play guy. The two September call-ups are right-hander Brandon Gomes and left-hander Cesar Ramos. It’s a solid bullpen overall with a dominant closer. Considering the magnitude of the series, I have to think Rodney will be available for more than one inning if needed.
Joe Girardi ran through most of his bullpen yesterday, though the late-game tandem of David Robertson and Rafael Soriano were able to get some rest. The middle relief is a complete mess at the moment, not so much in terms of availability, just effectiveness. Cory Wade might see some seventh inning time just by default. I would expect Boone Logan to be unavailable this afternoon, but check out our Bullpen Workload page for the latest on the team’s bullpen usage. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, DRays Bay is the place to go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.