It's safe to say the Rays needed that series win in Boston.
It’s safe to say that the Rays needed that series win in Boston.

The Tampa Bay Rays head the Big Crapple for the first time this season, where they’ll take on the New York Yankees in a three game weekend set, starting Friday. The series win that preceded the trip into New York was huge, and Tampa Bay will look to build on the momentum accrued upon their exit from Bean Town. Suffice it to say, the double header sweep was precisely what the doctor ordered. In the night game, the Rays proved they could come from behind after being down by three runs, while the relievers proved they could be relied upon to hold opponents right where they were — ultimately allowing the offense to tag the Red Sox with the winning runs in both games.

To put it bluntly, the Evil Empire has been playing like crap, and the Rays will look to kick the Bronx Bummers while they’re down. Though New York sits atop the AL East with a 15-11 record, their offense is slumping, batting just .197 with 2.6 runs per contest, while dropping three of five on the eight-game home stand. What’s more, the Yankees have hit .206 and been outscored 38-16 while dropping six of the past seven meetings with Tampa Bay in Yankee Stadium. Of those six losses, they were shut out three times and have struggled mightily against (Friday’s starter) David Price (3-2, 4.75 ERA) in the Bronx. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Price will be opposed by Vidal Nuno, who was impressive against the Rays in his first start April 20th, allowing just three hits with six strikeouts in five scoreless innings. He followed that six days later by allowing three runs in 4-1/3 innings against the Angels. They then have to face the Yankees’ wonder kid, Masahiro Tanaka, on Saturday.

If the pitching can keep the wolves at bay, the Rays should be able to waltz out of New York with a series win.

Rays and Yankees series starters.
Rays and Yankees series starters.
Rays and Yankees offensive production at home, away, and overall.
Rays and Yankees offensive production at home, away, and overall.
Rays and Yankees, by the numbers.
Rays and Yankees, by the numbers.

Vidal Nuno: We already know a little of what to expect out of Nuno, and the Rays will try to use their prior experience against the 25 year-old lefty to their advantage. The fastball/curve ball/slider/change-up/cutter hurler will attempt to keep the ball on the ground, and the Rays will look to work good at-bats and force a mistake. Nuno has impressed with the Yankees, though there are still lingering questions about whether he can get through lineups more than once (as evidenced by the aforementioned start above). Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (1-4), Logan Forsythe (1-2, 2B), Desmond Jennings (1-3, 2B, RBI), James Loney (2-5), Jose Molina (1-2, 2B), Ben Zobrist (1-3, 2 BB).

Mashiro Tanaka: What is there to say about Tanaka that hasn’t already been said? His splitter and slider are ridiculous, and Tanaka boasts an 11.61 K/9, and an impressive 38%-39% whiff rate when throwing the slider. Below are four examples of the damage he can incur when throwing his splitter or slider. Saturday will not be a walk in the park.

Tanaka puts away Mike puts Olt with a splitter at the feet. (GIF courtesy of Fan Graphs)
Tanaka gets ahead of Mike Olt with a splitter on the edge of the zone. (GIF courtesy of Fan Graphs)
He then put Olt away with a splitter at the feet. (GIF courtesy of Fan Graphs)
With a two-strike count, Olt came up again, and again faced a two-strike count. He would’ve remembered that Tanaka put him away earlier with a splitter out of the zone. So watch Tanaka counter Olt’s counter
Another strikeout looking (this time looking) of Olt. (GIF courtesy of Fan Graphs)

CC Sabathia: The Rays look to avenge their 10-2 loss against Sabathia and the Yankees on April 17th. In that outing, Sabathia seven strong innings of two run, six strikeout ball. Still, the Rays LOVE CC Sabathia. Sabathia is 2-6 with a 5.00+ ERA in his last nine starts against the Rays In short, facing the swarthy LHP could be just what the Rays need to jumpstart their offense. Key match-ups: David DeJesus (16-57, 7 2B, HR, 6 RBI), Yunel Escobar (13-39, 5 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 3 BB), Logan Forsythe (2-6, HR, RBI), Ryan Hanigan (3-9, HR, RBI), James Loney (5-18, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (23-56, 7 2B, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 12 BB), Wil Myers (3-11, HR, 5 RBI), Sean Rodriguez (14-45, 3 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB).


  • Marc Topkin writes, “The Yankees are having some problems with their rotation, losing RHP Ivan Nova to Tommy John surgery and RHP Michael Pineda to a suspension and a back strain. But they’re still leading the AL East, riding the rest of their rotation and a bullpen bolstered by the return of closer David Robertson. Though the teams already played four games at the Trop, the Rays will get their first look this weekend at Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, who now leads their rotation.”
  • Interestingly enough, New York is 14-1 when leading after six innings and 1-11 when tied or trailing.
  • The Yankees lead the series 167-112 overall, are 90-47 in New York, and 25-21 in the New Yankee Stadium.
  • James Loney and Ben Zobrist are among the hottest Rays. Loney over the last six games is hitting around .320. Zobrist is hitting almost .350 over the last week. Neither have shown too much power over the span, but both players have hit the ball with authority of late and the numbers reflect it.
  • Meanwhile, Evan Longoria and Wil Myers haven’t been as productive over the past week. Longoria’s average has hovered around .200 with just a home run and a few RBI over the past week.



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