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.
Their Story So Far
Tampa Bay is 5-1 against the Yankees, 14-16 against everyone else. They’re 11-9 since they swept the Yankees in the Bronx mid-April, but for what it’s worth, four of those wins came against the struggling Angels. Although they look like world beaters against the Yankees, the fact of the matter is that the Rays have been a very middling team thus far in 2021. The club’s +1 run differential doesn’t indicate differently.
As you’ll see in the next section, Tampa Bay has been besieged by injuries this season, mainly on the pitching side. Nonetheless, the club still has a slightly better than average pitching staff by ERA- (98) and FIP- (92). A lot of that is credit to Tyler Glasnow’s ridiculous numbers through eight starts, but then again, most pitching staffs don’t look very good once you subtract the ace. The Rays’ vaunted bullpen isn’t so vaunted this season, by the way. Injuries have wiped out a lot of big arms for this series and for much of 2021, namely: Nick Anderson and Diego Castillo.
Tampa Bay’s offense doesn’t bring much to the table. That’s not a huge surprise, though. This is a team built on pitching and defense. The team’s triple-slash line of .222/.304/.368 (97 wRC+) puts them in the middle of the pack. And while the club’s 9.1 percent walk rate is pretty good, the team strikes out a ton while not making up for it with power. The Rays have the third-worst strikeout rate (27.3 percent) and 9th-worst isolated power (.146).
|Player||Position||Injury||Roster Status||Estimated Return|
|Francisco Mejía||C||Strained Oblique||10-day IL||Late May|
|Ji-Man Choi||1B||Knee surgery||10-day IL||This Series|
|Kevin Kiermaier||CF||Sprained Wrist||10-day IL||Late May|
|Chris Archer||SP||Forearm Tightness||60-day IL||Mid June|
|Yonny Chirinos||SP||Tommy John Surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Michael Wacha||SP||Strained Hamstring||10-day IL||Late May|
|Nick Anderson||RP||Partial elbow ligament tear||60-day IL||Mid July|
|Jalen Beeks||RP||Tommy John Surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Diego Castillo||RP||Strained groin||10-day IL||Mid May|
|Oliver Drake||RP||Strained flexor||60-day IL||Early June|
|Chris Mazza||RP||Shoulder inflammation||10-day IL||Mid May|
|Colin Poche||RP||Tommy John Surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Chaz Roe||RP||Strained shoulder||60-day IL||Mid July|
Spotlight: Luis Patiño
I have a feeling we will get pretty familiar with this name over the next few years. 21 year-old Luis Patiño starts tonight against the Yankees. He, along with a handful of other prospects, were sent over to the Rays in exchange for Blake Snell last winter. It’ll be Patiño’s second start (and fourth appearance) of the season for the Rays, and just his third start in the majors. Patiño appeared in eleven games (one start) last year when he debuted for the Padres.
The young righty has been a consensus top-100 prospect for three years running. It’s been a pretty meteoric rise for the Colombian-born righty, who was signed for a mere $130,000 as an IFA in 2016. Now, here’s where he stacked up in the preseason top prospect lists:
- Baseball America: 23rd
- Baseball Prospectus: 25th
- FanGraphs: 12th
- MLB Pipeline: 19th
I’m happy to mock the Rays for trading away someone like Snell, especially after a World Series appearance, but it’s clear that Patiño has a chance to be a very good return. It just may not pan out for them immediately, which plays right into the Yankees’ (and other divisional rivals’) hands. Patiño has essentially skipped Double-A and Triple-A and could need more time in the minors before he’s truly ready to produce for the Rays. Tampa Bay is giving him a chance now, though.
Patiño attacks hitters with a three-pitch mix. His fastball averages 95.3 on the radar gun, which is actually down from his time with the Padres last year (96.7). Maybe that’s something to watch. In any case, it’s got elite spin rate (89th percentile) and above average vertical movement.
His out pitch is a slider, one that he’s used nearly a third of the time this season. It’s got a ridiculous 45.5 percent whiff rate and is another high-spin offering. Patiño will also use a changeup (8.5 percent), though it appears it’s something the Rays have deemphasized. It’s early, so the jury’s still out, but he threw roughly an equal amount of sliders and changeups in San Diego (about 18 percent). The ratio between those two pitches is far more slider heavy this season.
In an extremely small sample of 7.2 innings this year, Patiño has struck out 10, walked 1, and given up 3 hits. The only run he allowed came against Mike Trout, who homered off him. No shame in that. But the big thing here is the lone walk. Patiño didn’t have great control as a prospect, including a 9.7 percent walk rate in 2019 between High-A and Double-A (vast majority was in High-A). Last year, he issued a free pass to 16.5 percent of major league hitters. Not great. It’s a reason he could wind up a short reliever, but so far, so good in Tampa Bay.
Here’s Roster Resource‘s projected lineup and player stats on the season:
- Randy Arozarena, LF (.267/.362/.383, 122 wRC+)
- Austin Meadows, DH (.195/.317/.432, 116 wRC+)
- Manuel Margot, RF (.229/.274/.367, 84 wRC+)
- Brandon Lowe, 2B (.195/.291/.381, 97 wRC+)
- Yandy Díaz, 1B (.250/.387/.277, 108 wRC+)
- Joey Wendle, 3B (.287/.339/.463, 139 wRC+)
- Mike Zunino, C (.214/.276/.500, 119 wRC+)
- Brett Phillips, CF (.222/.328/.352, 101 wRC+)
- Willy Adames, SS (.189/.224/.351, 63 wRC+)
- Kevan Smith, C (0-for-1)
- Mike Brosseau, INF (.178/.241/.356, 72 wRC+)
- Yoshi Tsutsugo, INF/OF (.167/.244/.218, 40 wRC+)
Tonight, 7:10pm eastern:
LHP Jordan Montgomery
This will be Montgomery’s third game against the Rays already in 2021. He started the team’s only victory against the Rays this season (5 innings, 4 runs on April 11). The lefty surrendered another 4 runs in 6 frames on the 17th. Overall, Montgomery has a 4.39 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. (Stats vs. Rays)
RHP Luis Patiño
To expand on the numbers shared earlier (in terms of rate stats), he has a 1.17 ERA, 37 percent strikeout rate, and 3.7 percent walk rate in 7.2 innings pitched. Tonight’s the righty’s first game against the Yankees.
Tomorrow, 7:10pm eastern:
RHP Gerrit Cole
Cole’s faced Tampa Bay once so far this year and took the loss. The Rays scored three runs (two earned) against the Yankees’ ace on April 18th. It looks like he won’t avoid Ji-Man Choi in this one. (Stats vs. Rays)
Likely LHP Ryan Yarbrough
No announcement yet, but Yarbrough is lined up for this one. Yarbrough is a pretty different look than Patiño. The soft tossing lefty got the W opposing Cole in his lone matchup against the Yankees in 2021. Yarbrough gave up one run in five innings in that one. (Stats vs. Yankees)
Thursday, 7:10pm eastern:
RHP Jameson Taillon
Unlike Monty and Cole, Taillon has yet to oppose Tampa Bay this season. The righty is coming off his longest outing of the season (6.1 innings) on Friday. (Stats vs. Rays)
Likely LHP Josh Fleming
This is another TBD game, but Fleming looks like the choice. Back-to-back lefties for the Yankees, who somehow didn’t meet Fleming last season in spite of 25.2 innings thrown. Nor this season. The southpaw has a 2.79 ERA in spite of meh peripherals in his young career 68 innings).
|Jeffrey Springs (L)||15||15|