Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: April 16 to April 18

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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.

Their story so far

Believe it or not, Tampa Bay hasn’t played well this season. That they took two of three from the Yankees last weekend was more indicative of the Bombers’ early season struggles vs. the Rays’ talent. Since that series, Tampa Bay dropped three of four to the Rangers, including the last three in a row. Tampa Bay comes to New York with a 5-8 record.

Trading away Blake Snell was undoubtedly a big blow to this roster, but perhaps nothing has set the Rays back more than injuries. The team’s bullpen has been decimated, and though there are still good arms in Kevin Cash’s stable, it’s nowhere near as deep as last season. Add that to the Tyler Glasnow and scrubs rotation, and it’s no wonder that Tampa Bay has allowed the third-most runs in MLB this season (entering last night’s action). That includes last Saturday’s shutout against the Yankees, mind you. And two others with Glasnow starting. Yeah, it’s a star and scrubs type of staff.

The offense has been pretty top heavy early on too. Brandon Lowe hasn’t picked up where he left off last season, but Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena have been good. Just not good enough to get the Rays out of the AL cellar in terms of runs scored (entering yesterday’s games).

This team might be 3-10 if not for Glasnow, in fact. The Rays have won two of his starts by the score of 1-0. For as frustrating as the Yankees have been — and it’s been very, very frustrating — the Rays aren’t exactly off to a good start either. Hell, maybe they’d be 1-12 if they didn’t have a hex on the Yankees when they play at Tropicana Field.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Chris ArcherRHPForearm Tightness10-Day ILLate April
Peter FairbanksRHPStrained Rotator Cuff10-Day ILMid-May
Kevin KiermaierCFStrained Quad10-Day ILLate April
Chaz RoeRHPStrained Shoulder60-Day ILMid-July
Ji-Man Choi1BArthroscopic Knee Surgery10-Day ILMid-May
Nick AndersonRHPPartial UCL Tear60-Day ILMid-July
Yonny ChirinosRHPTommy John surgery60-Day IL2022
Oliver DrakeRHPStrained flexor60-Day ILEarly June
Colin PocheLHPTommy John surgery60-Day IL2022
Jalen BeeksLHPTommy John surgery60-Day IL2022

Spotlight: Tyler Glasnow

The Yankees missed Tyler Glasnow last weekend, but they won’t be so lucky this series. Glasnow will bring his sparkling 0.46 ERA in 19.2 innings (3 starts) to Yankee Stadium to the mound on either Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Tampa Bay hasn’t announced which day he’ll go yet. Saturday would be his normal turn, though the team may want to give him an extra day. If they do push him until Sunday, we’ll have a hell of a pitching matchup to close out this series. He’d face his former teammate, Gerrit Cole.

Each and every one of Glasnow’s three starts this year have been great, but none were quite as spectacular as his last outing against Texas. Glasnow struck out 14 Rangers in 7.2 innings before Tampa Bay’s bullpen closed out a 1-0 victory at the Trop. Sheesh.

The 27 year-old righty had been quite good over the past two years for Tampa Bay (2.90 ERA / 2.94 FIP in 118 innings), but he’s leveled up in 2021. How? He’s now throwing a slider in addition to his high-octane fastball and knee-buckling curveball. It’s a nasty pitch already, which is pretty unfair to add to an already strong arsenal.

The new pitch has elite spin (2810 RPM), movement (18 percent more horizontal movement than average), and velocity (87.8 MPH). Glasnow’s garnered a 38.1 percent whiff rate and .228 xwOBA against it.

He’s throwing it 30.4 percent of the time, which has reduced his curveball from 34.8 percent last year to 13.4 percent so far in 2021. Additionally, Glasnow has virtually scrapped his changeup. He’s thrown just two in his first three starts after going to it 4.7 percent of the time last year.

I think the righty’s ability to throw the slider for strikes is a big reason it’s so successful for him already. His curveball, in contrast, typically falls out of the zone and in the dirt. It’s not a pitch he can easily steal a strike with. So in theory, in past years, hitters could fastball hunt against Glasnow and hope to identify and lay off his curve. Easier said than done, of course. But now, Glasnow can dot his slider for strikes which makes facing him an even bigger headache.

So now hitters have to be prepared for a blazing 97 MPH heater in the zone (typically up) and a sharp slider down. Good luck. Best you can hope for is a hanger, and you better not miss it.

Projected Lineup

Below is Roster Resource’s projected lineup along with year-to-date stats in parentheses:

  1. Austin Meadows, LF (.234/.368/.489, 147 wRC+)
  2. Randy Arozarena, RF (.265/.333/.408, 116 wRC+)
  3. Brandon Lowe, 2B (.182/.308/.295, 83 wRC+)
  4. Yandy Díaz, 1B (.270/.426/.324, 132 wRC+)
  5. Joey Wendle, 3B (.289/.308/.474, 121 wRC+)
  6. Manuel Margot, CF (.286/.342/.486, 135 wRC+)
  7. Yoshi Tsutsugo, DH (.154/.214/.179, 18 wRC+)
  8. Mike Zunino, C (.148/.233/.407, 81 wRC+)
  9. Willy Adames, SS (.195/.233/.415, 81 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Francisco Mejía, C (.300/.348/.350, 101 wRC+)
  • Mike Brosseau, INF (.300/.333/.550, 148 wRC+)
  • Brett Phillips, OF (.125/.250/.250, 48 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 7:05pm

RHP Michael Wacha

The Yankees had Wacha on the ropes last weekend when he served as the bulk guy after Brent Honeywell opened. Wacha gave up three quick runs when he entered, but that was all across four innings. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Nick Nelson opens for RHP Michael King

Even though this week’s off days permit the Yankees to stay on rotation, the club will go with an opener today in Nick Nelson. Michael King, who pitched brilliantly in his lone appearance this season (6 innings, 1 run), will follow.

Wacha.

Tomorrow, 1:05pm

TBD (likely Glasnow)

There’s nothing else to add here about Glasnow that wasn’t already addressed in the spotlight section. (Stats vs. Yankees)

LHP Jordan Montgomery

The tall lefty faced Tampa Bay last Sunday and surrendered four runs in five innings. He gave up a couple of homers and didn’t have good control (including two HBP), but he did finish strong. Montgomery retired nine of the final eleven batters he faced.

(Stats vs. Tampa Bay)

Glasnow.

Sunday, 1:05pm

TBD (likely LHP Ryan Yarbrough)

After a 5.2 shutout innings against Miami in his first start, Yarbrough has gotten knocked around. Boston and Texas tagged him for 15 runs (12 earned) in 11 innings. He’s the type of pitcher a righty-heavy Yankees lineup should feast on. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Gerrit Cole

Like with the Yankees and Glasnow, the Rays dodged Cole last weekend but will have to face him Sunday. Cole is off to a terrific start to the season himself: a 1.47 ERA in 18.1 frames. Cole must be looking forward to not facing Ji-Man Choi, by the way.

(Stats vs. Tampa Bay)

Yarbrough.

Bullpen Status

PitcherThursdayWednesdayTuesdayMonday
Diego Castillo1122
Ryan Thompson14
Andrew Kittredge17
Cody Reed (L)202
Colin McHugh
Hunter Strickland17
Jeffrey Springs (L)14
Chris Mazza48
Trevor Richards49

Even after yesterday’s 10 inning loss to Texas, just about all of the Rays’ relievers should be available today. Now, they may not be available come Saturday as managers aren’t going to the same pitcher three days in a row this early in the year. That could also mean we get a mid series roster move, or perhaps one in advance of today’s game preemptively.

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5 Comments

  1. Mungo

    It would be a nice first step to win a series against a good team. So far in the early going that’s been a challenge.

  2. How does wRC+ relate to OPS? I’ve listed these players in order of descending OPS, and wRC+ also descends – except for Yandy Diaz, who has an unusually high wRC+. What gives?

    Austin Meadows: .877 OPS, 147 wRC+
    Manuel Margot: .828 OPS, 135 wRC+
    Joey Wendle: .785 OPS, 121 wRC+
    Yandy Díaz: .750 OPS, 132 wRC+
    Randy Arozarena: .741 OPS, 116 wRC+

    • Derek

      wRC+ is based on wOBA, which is why you’re probably noticing differences in order. So if you ranked them by OPS+ they should coincide with the actual OPS rankings.

  3. Gerreddardit Cole

    I hope we get swept into the East River, Derek. That’s the only way we might get some changes around here. I don’t see us winning tonight. We’ll hit Wacha but they’ll hit Nelson and it won’t matter what King does. King does deserve a chance to start, just wish it wasn’t Nelson opening for him. Rays are just a better club. They proved it last year and in the first series this year. They’re better coached, they hit, they pitch, they field and their front office is more innovative. And if they do hit one of ours then we need to throw 95 mph at their eyes. They put one of ours in the hospital, we put one of theirs in the morgue.

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