Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: 8/18 to 8/20

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It’s time to give the Rays a taste of their own medicine. After dropping three of four to Tampa Bay at the trop a little over a week ago, the Yankees welcome the Rays to the Bronx for three games. The Yanks won 8 of 10 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays in 2019 and have yet to lose a game at home this season. Now’s not the time to change that.

Their story so far

After a successful series against the Yankees at home, the Rays set off for a ten game road trip which finishes this week at Yankee Stadium. The first seven games came against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Kevin Cash’s team took care of business by winning six of seven to keep the pressure on the Yankees.

First, the Rays slaughtered the Red Sox at Fenway Park in a four game set. Red Sox pitching is so bad that it made the Rays look like the ’27 Yankees. Tampa Bay outscored Boston 42-22. Keep in mind that per wRC+, the Rays ranked 21st in offense entering that series. Look, the Red Sox stink, but credit where credit is due: beating the bad teams is often a thankless job.

Tampa Bay then headed north to Toronto Buffalo. The Blue Jays blew out the Rays in game one, 12-4, but Tampa Bay recovered to win the final two of the series. That capped off a strong 6-1 week into Monday’s off day. Entering this series, the Rays are 14-9 and 2.5 games behind the Yanks for first place in the division.

Injury Report

  • OF Randy Arozarena is still on the injured list for undisclosed reasons.
  • LHP Brendan McKay has been shut down with shoulder tightness.
  • LHP José Alvarado and RHP Charlie Morton are out with shoulder inflammation.
  • RHP Oliver Drake has biceps tendinitis.
  • RHP Andrew Kittredge has a UCL sprain.
  • LHP Colin Poche underwent Tommy John surgery and will not pitch this year.

Spotlight: Brandon Lowe

Hopefully yesterday’s day off cools down Lowe, who won the American League Player of the Week award for his absurd performance against Boston and Toronto. He hit .448/.500/1.000 (297 wRC+) with four doubles, four homers, and 10 RBIs in that span. Those four dingers came in consecutive games, by the way. One in each of the last two Boston games and another in each of the first two Toronto affairs.

Aside from his hot hitting, it’ll be interesting to see if the tension from the end of the last time these two teams met carries forward. Lowe was right in the middle of it and had a bit to say about the Yankees’ bench:

“It’s pretty frustrating to have them think that you’re not able to chirp and say anything back to them. They’ve been doing it the whole time and for us to not be able to do it back, it’s a little childish…You’ve got to wear it. If it’s going to happen, just wear it.”

Lowe

This apparently was spurred from a stare he gave after he homered against Paxton in the series finale. It looks like third base coach Phil Nevin was jawing at Lowe once he crossed home plate. Take a look:

If the Yankees are actually perturbed by something the Lowe and/or the Rays did or said, the best response is to win. A big key to winning this series? Slowing down Lowe, of course.

Lowe’s hot week was a big reason that the Rays’ offense went from an 89 wRC+ (21st in MLB) to 116 (3rd) in the matter of a week. Of course, it came against the horrid Red Sox pitching for most of the week, so it’ll be curious to see how Lowe responds to some better pitching.

Lowe hasn’t had much success against Yankees pitchers save for that Paxton homer. It was his only hit vs. the Bombers in that series. Against current Bronx pitchers, Lowe has a .173/.192/.376 triple-slash in 40 at-bats. Of course, batter vs. pitcher stats are not necessarily predictive.

Projected Lineup

  1. LF Austin Meadows (.250/.333/.500, 125 wRC+)
  2. 2B Brandon Lowe (.338/.404/.738, 205 wRC+)
  3. 3B Yandy Díaz (.301/.433/.329, 126 wRC+)
  4. 1B Ji-Man Choi (.180/.282/.328, 72 wRC+)
  5. DH Yoshi Tsutsugo (.207/.319/.397, 101 wRC+)
  6. SS Willy Adames (.284/.377/.522, 147 wRC+)
  7. CF Kevin Kiermaier (.233/.333/.500, 85 wRC+)
  8. RF Hunter Renfroe (.194/.282/.452, 99 wRC+)
  9. C Mike Zunino (.091/.200/.250, 29 wRC+)

C Michael Perez, IF/OF Michael Brosseau, IF Joey Wendle, 1B/OF/DH José Martínez, and OF Manuel Margot round out the bench.

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05 p.m. EDT: Blake Snell (vs. Yankees) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Rays)

Snell walked the talk last time he faced the Yankees. For just three innings though as he was on a pitch count. He held the Yankees hitless, walked two, and struck out five. He followed that with five shutout frames against the lifeless Red Sox and presumably has no constraints on his start tonight.

Snell.

Tanaka pitched against Snell in Tampa Bay, so we have a rematch on hand. Tanaka matched Snell’s zeroes over three innings but didn’t go any further. Masa pitched five bank frames against the Red Sox this week, so he should also be a full go this evening.

Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m. EDT: Tyler Glasnow (vs. Yankees) vs. Gerrit Cole (vs. Rays)

We have another rematch between probable starters tomorrow. Glasnow has struggled in the early goings of 2020, including a rough outing against the Yankees at the Trop during which he failed to complete three innings. It didn’t get better his next time around: Glasnow allowed eight hits and five runs to the lowly Red Sox last Thursday. Struggles aside, we know that Glasnow is capable of dominance with his high octane fastball and sharp breaker.

Glasnow.

Cole had his strikeout game going against the Rays ten days ago (10 punchouts), but struggled with efficiency and was pulled with one out to go in the fifth inning. He had a number of long at-bats and struggled to finish guys off even with that many strikeouts. Cole pitched much better in his last start against Boston, at least. Hopefully he builds on that seven inning, one run performance.

Thursday, 1:05 p.m. EDT: Ryan Yarbrough (vs. Yankees) vs. James Paxton (vs. Rays)

Although not officially announced for Thursday’s game, Yarbrough is in line to make the start for the Rays. Yarbrough is a crafty lefty who doesn’t throw hard or have nasty secondary pitches, but he’s still difficult to hit. He’s been elite at inducing soft contact since he came into the league.

Yarbrough.

What will we see from Paxton this time around? He had his best start of the season in St. Pete, but is still searching for his top notch fastball. In that game vs. the Rays, Paxton had excellent command and struck out eleven in spite of a slower fastball. His location wasn’t quite as good against the Red Sox this past series and his results showed for it (five innings, three runs, two strikeouts).

Bullpen Status

RHP: Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Peter Fairbanks, Chaz Roe, Ryan Thompson, John Curtiss

LHP: Aaron Loup, Jalen Beeks, Anthony Banda

Tampa Bay will have a fresh bullpen for this series thanks to Monday’s day off. The only arm that Cash may want to avoid for the first game of this series is Beeks, who threw 42 pitches on Saturday. He did that after throwing 29 pitches two days before.

Even without Alvarado, Drake, Kittredge, and Poche, this Rays bullpen is terrific. It’s as deep as it gets and as you saw last time these two teams faced off, the Yankees had a tough time against a myriad of Rays’ relievers. I expect things to be tough again this series.


The season won’t be over if the Yankees lose two of three or even get swept, but now’s the time to get some revenge. Win at least two of three at home against the Rays to remind them that the Yankees are the team to beat in the division. Nothing less.

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2 Comments

  1. Gerreddardit Cole

    Must win series, Derek. The Cole start is an automatic win because he never loses and he will break the record for most consecutive Ws. So we just have to win one of the other two to take the series. It’ll be tough to beat Snell without Judge, DJ and Stanton so I’d put my money on winning Game 3. We’re not in their house of horrors anymore so we should be able to win the series even shorthanded. Looks like Andujar is at DH, which keeps him off the field. Thairo at 2B instead of the meek Tyler Wade. Boone is at least giving us a fighting chance to win tonight. Tanaka will have to be in postseason form. I just don’t think we can afford to lose best record to the Rays and go to Tampa in October, if they even allow home fields.

  2. MikeD

    The chirping, however, seems to come only from the Rays side, at least with the media. I’m sure on the field it’s both ways. Hasn’t this been going on for a while? Didn’t CC retaliate against the Rays at the end of 2018 after Kittridge beaned Romine? The Rays pitchers do have a bit of a reputation as head hunters. This goes back to even earlier Devil Rays days. I remember they broke Cervelli’s wrist in Spring Training with a needlessly aggressive play. Trying to make a statement and they take another player out of action for months in a ST game. Stupid. I guess it’s a variation of little brother syndrome. The Yankees are always the big guy on the block.

    Anyway, they’re talking so much I expect they’ll be some altercation these next few games.

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