Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: May 31 to June 3

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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:

Their story so far

Tampa Bay’s story has changed quite a bit since the Yankees last faced them. The Rays dropped two of three in the Bronx from May 11th through 13th, but have been on a tear ever since. Including their victory over the Yankees on the 13th, Tampa Bay has won 15 of 16 to improve from 19-19 to 34-20. They were also in the midst of an 11 game winning streak before dropping a game to the Royals on Tuesday. In all, they are in first place; one game ahead of Boston and 4.5 in front of the Bombers.

The offense has been the catalyst for the Rays of late. They’ve scored 105 runs (6.6 per game) in their last 16 games. Can’t say I saw that coming. Tampa Bay’s bats weren’t expected to be very good this season, and in the early going, their lineup looked mediocre. But now, a number of their hitters are hot during this stretch, including Joey Wendle (225 wRC+), Ji-Man Choi (216 wRC+), Austin Meadows (196 wRC+), Mike Zunino (183 wRC+), and Randy Arozarena (148 wRC+). That’s a lot of hot hitters entering this series in the Bronx.

Speaking of their lineup, Kevin Cash no longer pencils in Willy Adames at shortstop. The Rays traded him away (along with righty Trevor Richards) a week after they were last at Yankee Stadium. This will eventually open the door for super prospect Wander Franco, but for now, Taylor Walls is getting the reps at short. Tampa Bay shipped Adames to Milwaukee for two pitchers: ex-Yankee farmhand J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until they’re annoyingly good relievers.

Walls has been OK in brief time thus far: .227/.346/.318 (100 wRC+) in 26 trips to the plate. He’s better known for his glove, for what it’s worth. Meanwhile, Franco is hitting .284/.354/.534 (133 wRC+) as a 20 year-old in Triple-A, so I’m not sure why they’re still keeping him down there at this point. For the Yankees’ sake: please keep waiting.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Chris ArcherRHPForearm tightness60-day ILJuly
Cody ReedLHPThumb weakness60-day ILJuly
Oliver DrakeRHPStrained flexor60-day ILJune
Chaz RoeRHPStrained shoulder60-day ILJuly
Nick AndersonRHPPartially torn UCL60-day ILJuly
Yonny ChirinosRHPTommy John surgery60-day IL2022
Colin PocheLHPTommy John surgery60-day IL2022
Jalen BeeksLHPTommy John surgery60-day IL2022

Projected Lineup:

Here’s what Kevin Cash will pencil in, per Roster Resource:

  1. Randy Arozarena, RF (.266/.357/.422, 125 wRC+) – As noted earlier, recent play has been much better.
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B (.193/.313/.381, 99 wRC+) – Way down from last year’s 150 wRC+.
  3. Yandy Díaz, 1B (.256/.387/.299, 110 wRC+) – All his value comes from walks, basically. Doesn’t have a homer in 199 plate appearances this year.
  4. Austin Meadows, LF (.233/.346/.511, 141 wRC+) – Career-best .274 isolated power. Pretty good given the de-juiced baseball.
  5. Ji-Man Choi, DH (.342/.479/.605, 207 wRC+) – Raking since he returned from the injured list.
  6. Taylor Walls, SS (.227/.346/.318, 100 wRC+) – Rookie was hitting .327/.468/.490 (165 wRC+) in Triple-A before promotion
  7. Joey Wendle, 3B (.302/.360/.525, 149 wRC+) – Massive power surge for the left-handed hitter, who has 6 homers and a .228 ISO. His career-high in both are 7 and .149, respectively.
  8. Francisco Mejía, C (.258/.323/.427, 115 wRC+) – Has ceded some time to Zunino, who’s been hot
  9. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.202/.265/.260, 52 wRC+) – Really rough year for Kiermaier, who was also hurt earlier.

Bench:

  • Mike Zunino, C (.222/.300/.593, 148 wRC+) – Has 12 homers in 120 plate appearances.
  • Mike Brosseau, INF (.168/.257/.337, 73 wRC+) – Platoon bat has a 106 wRC+ against southpaws.
  • Manuel Margot, OF (.247/.279/.382, 88 wRC+) – 99th percentile in Outs Above Average this year, mostly in the outfield corners.
  • Brett Phillips OF (.230/.322/.370, 102 wRC+) – Also 99th percentile in OAA, but in center field primarily.

Pitching Matchups

Today, 1:05pm eastern:

LHP Rich Hill

Dick Mountain may be 41 years-old, but he keeps on kicking. The southpaw has a 3.63 ERA in 52 innings this season. He’s faced the Yankees twice so far this year, with his most recent start the best one: 9 strikeouts in 6 shutout innings. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Jameson Taillon

Taillon struck out 9 Rays earlier this month, but also gave up 4 runs in 4.2 innings. He’s mostly struggled in his nine starts this season, though he did throw 5 shutout frames against the White Sox in his last start. More of that, please. (Stats vs. Rays)

Hill.

Tomorrow, 7:05pm eastern:

RHP Tyler Glasnow

Tampa Bay’s ace struck out 11 Royals in 8 shutout innings last week and is in the midst of a terrific season. The righty has a 2.57 ERA and 2.98 FIP in 70 innings this season. He gave up a run in 5 frames vs. the Yanks back in April. (Stats vs. Yankees)

RHP Domingo Germán

The Rays launched two dingers against Germán on April 10th, but the righty has been far better since that start. He’s got a 2.09 ERA and 3.40 FIP since that outing. If he can keep the ball in the park or limit the damage to solo shots, Germán can be pretty good. (Stats vs. Rays)

Glasnow.

Wednesday, 7:05pm eastern:

LHP Shane McClanahan

The 24 year-old was the 31st overall pick in the 2018 draft and made his big league debut this season. So far, so good. He has a 3.29 ERA and 2.98 FIP in 27.1 innings, along with an impressive 32:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This will be his first faceoff with the Bombers.

LHP Jordan Montgomery

This already will be the fourth time Montgomery takes on the Rays this season. There were two not so good starts, but in his most recent matchup against Tampa Bay, he surrendered just 1 run in 6 innings and fanned 9. More of that, please. (Stats vs. Rays)

McClanahan.

Thursday, 1:05pm eastern:

TBD

Southpaw Ryan Yarbrough could make the start here, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Michael Wacha or an opener. One of those two could follow for the bulk innings, anyway.

RHP Gerrit Cole

Cole has been nails against the Rays so far this year. He’s allowed just 3 runs in 14.1 innings and has struck out 22. Of course, he’s just 1-1 in those two starts thanks to the Yankees’ struggling offense. (Stats vs. Rays)

Bullpen Status

PitcherSundaySaturdayFriday
Diego Castillo2711
J.P. Feyereisen13
Peter Fairbanks11
Andrew Kittredge18
Ryan Thompson15
Jeffrey Springs (L)725
Collin McHugh14
Josh Fleming (L)75
Michael Wacha

As you may have noticed, I didn’t write up a spotlight player for this preview. Gonna be honest with you: it’s a holiday weekend and I just didn’t feel like writing it this time around. It’ll return for the next series. Until then, let’s hope the Yankees get it together for this set against Tampa Bay.

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1 Comment

  1. Not looking forward to Ji Man crushing dingers into right this series. Like, at all

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