There’s no such thing as a must-win game or series at this juncture of the season, but this is a pretty important four games upcoming against the Rays. Tampa Bay comes to the Bronx as the hottest team in the league, while the Yankees are returning home after an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Tigers this weekend. Here’s the latest on Tampa Bay:
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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.
Kevin Kiermaier (along with other members of the Rays) are none too happy with the Yankees after last weekend. He spoke at length about it after the end of the series in which the Rays won two of three. Yankees pitchers hit Tampa Bay hitters four times in the series, including some high and tight. Intentional or not, that’s understandably scary. And it’s not like there’s already bad blood carrying over from the past few years.
These two sides meet again this weekend, leaving very little time for either side too cool off. Tensions should still be high once the first pitch is thrown on Friday, and there’s always a chance of a spillover at Yankee Stadium. Let’s hope not, but given the history between these two sides, it’s pretty much to be expected. Aaron Boone’s hope is that the past is left in the past:
“I know we hit a few guys in the last series. I get their frustration with that but that’s not for us to get caught up into right now. We’ve got to go out and play good baseball. We’ve got another good team coming to town to kick off a home stand. It’s important that we don’t get caught up in that, we need to put our best foot forward and play good baseball. That will be our focus on Friday.”
Obviously, it’d be best for the Yankees to let their play doing the talking in this rivalry. Especially given the club’s stumble out of the gate. There’s no better time than now.
The Yankees now take a three game trip to the turf of the Tropicana Field (UGH!), where they will visit Tampa Bay for the Rays first homestand. Fresh from getting swept by the Red Sox (LOL), let’s see how the current bottom dweller of the AL East is doing.
Their story so far
The Rays have lost four straight games after starting 2-0 in the season. In their previous series, the Red Sox outscored them 26-9 sending them straight to the last place of the ALE.
So far in the season the Rays have used four starters. Tyler Glasnow has been amazing in his two starts with just one earned run in 12 innings. The other guys? Not so much: Ryan Yarbrough has allowed six runs in 10.2 (although all of them against the Red Sox on Wednesday), and Michael Wacha and Rich Hill have combined for eight earned runs in nine innings. It seems that replacing two of the club’s three best starters is not looking good already huh? Who would have thunk it? (Not us, definitely not)
Chris Archer, the third addition to the Frankenstein triumvirate to try and replace Snell and Morton, has only appeared one time out of the bullpen, allowing four runs (three earned) in 2 innings pitched. He is expected to make his first start of the season this series.
Offensively, the story is not much better. The Rays hold a 88 OPS+ value as a team. Most of their damage in the early going has been from Brandon Lowe, Manuel Margot, Joey Wendle, and Francisco Mejía; they have values of 164, 171, 135 and 123 of OPS+ respectively. The other starters have been either around average hitters or straight up black holes in the offense like Yoshi Tsutsugo (-18) and Kevin Kiermaier (-45).
The Rays are in a early season bad streak and the Yankees also catch a break in not having to face their best pitcher in Tyler Glasnow. This would be a good opportunity to drop them a bit deeper in the standings in the early going. How about the Yanks do just that?
The defending AL pennant champion Rays accomplished a lot last year. They went 40-20 in the regular season, won the division (ugh), and went to the World Series for the second time in franchise history. They disposed of the Blue Jays, the Yankees (double ugh) and the Astros (yay! I guess?) before their showdown with the Dodgers where they lost in 6 games.
So, surely they took the base of a team that won the pennant and added more pieces to compete for the championship in 2021. That’s how it works, right? Well…not exactly.
The Rays celebrated their pennant by letting go two of their three best pitchers in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. From a Yankees fan perspective I can only say: Way to go Rays!
After that quite nice celebration, how does this new season look for the Rays?