Big Randy Arozarena with an epic bat flip. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

After taking two of three from the Orioles, and thus resecuring a hold on the final AL Wildcard spot, the Tampa Bay Rays departed for the Bronx, where they’ll start a three-game set against the Yankees on Monday. New York dropped two of three in Boston.

At 60-53 on the season, the Rays enter play seven games over .500, and 1.0 game behind Toronto for the top AL Wildcard spot (0.5 games behind Seattle for the second Wildcard spot).

Put simply, the Rays got shellacked on Friday, yet they bounced back with two consecutive wins against Baltimore, including an eight-inning perfect game bid by Drew Rasmussen. They really bore down on Baltimore’s pitching staff, scoring eight two-out runs.

Tampa Bay hasn’t quite been an offensive juggernaut over the last seven days, with the team performing to an 80 wRC+, yet they received huge contributions from Randy Arozarena (two homers, six RBI, 197 wRC+), Francisco Mejía (181 wRC+), Taylor Walls (144 wRC+), José Siri (131 wRC+), and Yu Chang (105 wRC+) over that stretch.

It also is not like the Yankees have been nearly as potent as they had been earlier in the season, going 2-5 over the last seven games, and 2-8 over the last 10. The mighty Yankees offense scored a whopping five runs against the Red Sox and they’ve dropped four consecutive series. Hopefully, the regression monster maintains its grip on New York this week.

Beyond all that, the Yankees’ once-vaunted pitching has fallen on black days during this middling spate of play, maintaining a combined 4.43 ERA and 4.69 FIP over the last 14 days. Over the same stretch, Tampa Bay’s hurlers have performed about a run better, as they own a combined 3.80 ERA and 3.02 FIP over the same stretch.

While they are just 3-7 against New York in 2022, the Rays will be facing the Bronx Bummers at the right time. A series win in New York will go a long way in allowing them to gain some ground in the division, and potentially some ground against the Blue Jays, who are set to start a three-game series against Baltimore on Monday.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (0-7, 5.08 ERA) in some capacity, Jeffrey Springs (4-3, 2.56 ERA), and Corey Kluber (7-7, 4.40 ERA). Aaron Boone will counter with Gerrit Cole (9-4, 3.38 ERA), Nestor Cortes (9-3, 2.67 ERA), and Domingo German (1-2, 4.18 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough allowed three runs on four hits, two hit batsmen, and a walk while striking out five in 3.1 innings on Tuesday against the Brewers. Yarbrough served in the bulk-reliever role and entered the game in the second inning after Jimmy Yacabonis opened the game. In addition to his two hit batsman, the left-hander uncorked two wild pitches, while seven of the 16 batters he faced reached base safely. It has been an inconsistent season for Yarbrough and, while his 5.08 ERA and 4.81 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, and 2.67 K/BB in 56.2 innings leave something to be desired, he continues to get opportunities to eat innings. He is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in one outing (5.1 innings) against the Yankees in 2022.

Gerrit Cole allowed four hits while striking out eight in seven scoreless innings against the Mariners. Cole went toe-to-toe in a rematch with Seattle starter Luis Castillo although he couldn’t notch a victory since the game went 13 innings. The excellent performance comes on the heels of three consecutive poor outings, during which the 31-year-old pitched to a 7.00 ERA across 18 innings against Baltimore, Kansas City, and Seattle. All told, Kermit the Frog Cole maintains a 3.38 ERA and a 3.25 FIP, with a 5.39 K/BB, and a 1.02 WHIP across 138.1 innings. He has been very tough on the Rays this season, going 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA in three turns against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Yu Chang (1-3), Ji-Man Choi (9-21, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 6 BB), Yandy Díaz (11-32, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (5-17, RBI, BB), Francisco Mejía (1-4), David Peralta (4-9, 3 2B, HR, RBI), Roman Quinn (1-1, 2B, 2 RBI, BB)

Jeffrey Springs allowed two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings against the Brewers on Wednesday. He struck out eight. The left-hander got tagged for two runs in the first inning but settled down after that, giving Tampa Bay a chance to tie things up. Springs generated 16 swinging strikes among his 85 pitches and fell one strikeout short of his season high. All told, he owns an impressive 2.56 ERA and a 3.29 FIP, with a 5.06 K/BB through 84.1 innings on the season. Springs is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in one start against New York this season.

Nestor Cortes allowed three earned runs on three hits and a walk while striking out 10 across six innings Wednesday against the Mariners. Cortes fell apart late in the start, as he began with 5.1 scoreless frames. Even so, he punched out double-digit batters for the first time in 14 starts and tallied his third quality start in his last five outings. Cortes has maintained an excellent 2.67 ERA and a 3.33 FIP, with a 4.31 K/BB across 118 innings for the season. He is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (5-18, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (2-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Francisco Mejía (2-6), Isaac Paredes (2-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI)

Corey Kluber surrendered seven runs on 10 hits and a walk over 5.2 innings Friday against Baltimore, while striking out four. Kluber gave up a solo home run to Adley Rutschman in the first inning but most of the damage against him didn’t come until the sixth, when Kluber was charged with four runs in the frame, including one after he was removed from the contest. Kluber has given up at least three runs in five consecutive starts, posting an unsightly 6.91 ERA during that stretch. He carries a 4.40 ERA and a 3.44 FIP on the season, with a 1.19 WHIP, and a 6.06 K/BB across 116.2 innings. He is 0-1 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season.

Domingo German allowed one run on five hits across six innings Friday against the Red Sox. He struck out four while walking two. German allowed runners into scoring position in three of the first four innings, but the only run he allowed was on a J.D. Martinez single in the fourth. He faced the minimum over his final two frames to complete his longest start of the season. After missing the first half of the year with a shoulder injury, he’s now had three straight solid turns, allowing a total of four runs over that stretch. Overall, he maintains a 4.18 ERA and a 5.02 FIP, with a 2.13 K/BB, and a 1.44 WHIP across 23.2 innings. Over his career, German is 3-1 with a 6.40 ERA in eight outings (six starts) against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (2-5, HR, RBI), Yandy Díaz (3-11, HR, RBI), Brandon Lowe (2-8), Francisco Mejía (1-2, 2 RBI, BB)