Here we go again. The Yankees (18-16) and Rays (19-17) square up for a third series this season, starting tonight at Tropicana Field. The first two meetings haven’t gone so well for the Bombers. Tampa Bay took two of three at home and then swept a three game series at Yankee Stadium in mid-April. There’s no other way to put it: the Rays have beaten up on the Yankees not only this year, but in recent seasons as well.
On the bright side, it’s a new series and the Yankees have been better of late. Since these two teams last met, the Yankees are 13-6. The Yankees can start to change the narrative with a good performance against the Rays this week, particularly since it’s on the road and in a ballpark no one likes to play in.
The Yankees are riding high off an emotional series win against the Trashtros and let’s hope to avoid a letdown against the Nationals this weekend. Overall, the Yankees are currently 4th in the AL East with a 16-15 record, though they are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have the best record in MLB since their 5-10 start.
Continuing the theme of the Trashtros for a moment, the Nationals are the true heroes of MLB for beating Houston in the 2019 World Series right before the cheating scandal broke. If you’re attending games this weekend, let’s cheer the Nats for that herculean effort and then hope the Yankees continue their recent play and sweep them.
Their Story So Far
The Nationals have continued their struggles since winning the 2019 World Series and sit in last place in the NL East with a 12-15 record and a -22 run differential. They are 5-5 in their last 10 and are currently riding a 3 game losing streak. Let’s extend to 6 games, shall we? Offense has been the team’s big culprit so far as they have only scored 93 runs this year. Along with the Mets, they are the only two NL teams with under 100 runs scored. Even the lowly Pirates have scored 106 runs in the early going. They rank 21st with a team wRC+ of 90 and 18th with a team wOBA of .306. For context, despite their offensive struggles, the Yankees have a team wRC+ of 105 and a wOBA of .315.
On the pitching side of things, they rank 17th with a 4.21 ERA with 4.84 FIP and 4.58 xFIP. Put that together with the offense, and you get a middling last place team that has severely underperformed expectations to the point that once again, the question everyone is asking about the team is if they’ll trade Max Scherzer at the deadline.
After this series
Out for season
Spotlight: Juan Soto
Who else would it be? My preseason MVP pick recently returned after a shoulder injury, though he has only pinch hit thus far. He’s off to a slow start this year by his standards, slashing .283/.391/.434 (121 wRC+) though he is coming off an absurd 2020 where he hit .351/.490/.695 (201! wRC+).
Of hitters through their age 21 season all-time, Soto ranks 8th in OPS+, 2nd in OBP, 6th in SLG, fourth in wOBA, third in BB%, and fifth in BB/K rate. According to ZiPS, Soto is expected to produce 81.4 WAR from now until his age 36 season, and that same system spit out Ted Williams as a player comp for Soto which ZiPS guru Dan Szymborski said is a first.
During his historic 2020 season, Soto raked to a .474 xwOBA which led all of baseball. And, even in a short injury-filled start to this year, his expected numbers are all incredible. Take a look:
Tons and tons of red. I remember seeing Soto hit an opposite field home run nearly to the bleachers of Yankee Stadium a few years ago which is just unheard of for lefty hitters. He is a rare, rare player and an absolute joy to watch, though let’s hope Yankee pitching finds a way to keep him in check this series.
Below is Roster Resource’s projected starting lineup for the Nationals.
Trea Turner, SS (.299/.348/.533, 138 wRC+)
Juan Soto, RF (.283/.391/.434, 121 wRC+)
Josh Harrison, 2B (.329/.417/.466, 145 wRC+)
Josh Bell, 1B (.141/.222/.281, 40 wRC+)
Kyle Schwarber, LF (.187/.265/.333, 63 wRC+)
Starlin Castro, 3B (.260/.296/.350, 76 wRC+)
Yan Gomes, C (.271/.306/.458, 103 wRC+)
Victor Robles, CF (.228/.351.278, 82 wRC+)
Alex Avila, C (.125/.333/.250, 78 wRC+)
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B (.314/.352/.588, 152 wRC+)
Jordy Mercer, INF (.333/.360/.375, 103 wRC+)
Yadiel Hernandez, OF (.300/.370/.400, 113 wRC+)
Andrew Stevenson, OF (.224/.278/.327, 66 wRC+)
With the DH in the AL, look for Schwarber to likely DH with Hernandez of Stevenson manning the outfield.
Friday, 5/7 at 7:08pm EDT
Patrick Corbin, LHP
Corbin has struggled in the early going with an 8.10 ERA and 7.31 xERA for a -0.5 WAR thus far. The highly sought after lefty is striking out less than 7 per 9 and walking nearly 6. Look for the Bombers to be patient and wait for their pitch. (Stats vs. Yankees).
Jameson Taillon, RHP
Our beloved Jamo put together his best start last time out giving up 1 run over 5 innings while striking out 8. On the year he has a 5.24 ERA but a 2.90 xERA so look for the strong performance to continue. (Stats vs. Nationals).
Saturday, 5/8 at 1:08pm EDT
Max Scherzer, RHP
Scherzer is off to a good start with a 2.54 ERA in his first 6 starts. Notably, he threw a complete game in his last start and good thing there were no extras because he rushed to the hospital right after for the birth of his child! (Stats vs. Yankees).
Corey Kluber, RHP
The Klubot threw the first 8-inning start for a Yankee pitcher in a very long time last time out which lowered his season ERA to 3.03. With increased usage of his changeup we are seeing the next evolution of the Klubot. (Stats vs. Nationals).
Sunday, 5/9 at 1:08pm EDT
Joe Ross, RHP
Ross is struggling with the homeruns this year, giving up 2.03 HR/9 and is otherwise pitching to his usual mid-4’s and 5’s ERA/FIP. Let’s hope for some Mother’s Day homeruns with the pink bats! (Stats vs. Yankees).
Domingo Germán, RHP
Germán is off to a 4.32 ERA 4.91 xERA start, though he has pitched better of late giving up no more than 3 runs each of his past 3 starts including a 7-inning shutout against Baltimore recently. We won’t rehash the non-baseball angle here other than to say I wish anyone else were pitching on Mother’s Day. (Stats vs. Nationals).
Voth is the only guy who’s thrown 2 out of the last 3 days, so the Nats bullpen will be rested for what we hope is a lot of usage against the Bronx Bombers this weekend! Enjoy the series!
Here it is. The moment Yankees fans have been waiting for since news of the Houston Asterisks cheating scandal broke in late 2019 – starting this evening, the Bronx faithful will have the opportunity to boo the Trashstros out of Yankee Stadium. I’ll be there, and I look forward to sharing that collective catharsis with the other 10,000 people who are there for the same reason.
The series comes at a good time for the Yankees, who seem to be in the process of recovering from their early season struggles. They are coming off a three game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, which featured outstanding pitching performances from Corey Kluber and Gerrit Cole and offensive breakouts up and down the lineup. If the team can continue its production on both sides of the ball throughout the week, Houston, who is coming off a 2-of-3 series win against Tampa, might have a problem.
They say there’s no place like home, but the Yankees seemed to enjoy their road trip, going 5-3 and giving fans hope for a turnaround from the tough beginning of the season despite the frustrating #fakebaseball loss in the Baltimore series finale. The team’s last homestand was rough, to say the least, and the Yankees must now try to carry over their road success to a 9-game home stretch beginning with a series against the Detroit Tigers. This marks the first series in 2021 against an opponent the Yankees did not face in 2020.
Up until this past weekend’s series against Cleveland, the only other series the Yankees had won this season was against the Orioles. Now, the Yankees meet Baltimore again, but this time at Camden Yards. It’s a four game set between two clubs tied for last place in the AL East with 9-12 records. The Orioles are destined to finish in the division’s cellar, whereas the Yankees should be able to climb out of it by the end of this series.