First, before I get started, something piqued my interest:
Per Iron Maiden and the Bronx Bummer’s OPS over the 30 days, the Yankees indeed are the devil. Now that that’s out of the way, back to the Rays/Yankees series preview.
The Tampa Bay Rays made their way home on the heels of series win against the Toronto Blue Jays. They are set to welcome the New York Yankees into Tropicana Field, for the final series of the 2014 season. The Rays dropped two of three against the Yankees in the three-game set that directly preceded their excursion north of the border. Tampa Bay held a 4-0 lead into the eighth inning in the finale of that series, when the bullpen collapsed — the relievers allowed five runs in 1-2/3 innings for a 5-4 loss.
For the Rays, as I’ve alluded to on multiple occasions, their raison D’être in the upcoming series — and really, the final 12 games of the season — is two-fold:
- Play the role of spoilers. Mind you, they’ll be tasked with facing two potential playoff contenders (New York and Cleveland) in the next four series’.
- Finish the year strongly. While they’d have to go 9-3, 10-2, 11-1, or 12-0 over the next 12 games in order to end the season with a .500 (or greater) record, a strong finish — especially by those potentially fighting for a spot on the 2015 roster — would go a long way.
Then there’s the Yankees; a team who, in theory, still has a chance of making the playoffs (per Fangraphs, they have a 0.8% chance of a wildcard berth). Then again, they really haven’t put together a hair-on-fire run in the homestretch of the season like they would need in order to give “Derek Jeter a fit and proper send off” in this, his final season. (Editor’s note, we here at X-Rays Spex really couldn’t care less whether the Yankees gave “Derek Jeter a fit and proper send off”) Rather, they’ve played somewhere in the range of .500 to .600 ball since August 26, dropping four series’ to playoff contending teams all the while.
A presupposition of course, though I’d imagine that Alex Colome (Monday’s starter), CJ Riefenhauser, and Nick Franklin will all see action in the next three days. Not to belittle the promotion of Colome, I’m rather excited to see what Nick “Lil BenZo” Franklin has to offer. If there’s the expectation for Franklin to be Zobrist’s understudy (of sorts), what better time than now for a promotion? Franklin batted .277 with five doubles and four homers (good for a .426 SLG), 12 runs, and 11 runs batted in since August 4 — including postseason play with the Bulls.
Chris Capuano: The Rays took a 4-0 lead against Capuano (2-3, 4.90 ERA) before the Yankees even came to bat in the first inning, last week. Capuano was able to get only one out before he was quickly pulled in favor of the Yankees September bolstered bullpen. If you’re keeping track, four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning is good for an 108.00 ERA. The Yankees were able to overcome a four run deficit for the first time this season, to beat the Rays by a three run margin. I digress. Key matchups: Yunel Escobar (4-6, 4 RBI), James Loney (5-7, 4 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (1-4, 2B, BB), Wil Myers (3-3, 2B, RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (1-4), Ben Zobrist (2-5, RBI).
Michael Pineda: If we learned anything about Micahel Pineda (3-4, 2.20 ERA) in his previous start against the Rays, it’s that he pounds the zone. But despite the 5-4 loss, the Rays were able to tag him for four runs on 10 hits, including a pair of homers off the bat of Yunel Escobar. Still, they went 2-10 wRISP while stranding six on the bags. Key matchups: David DeJesus (4-12, 2B), Yunel Escobar (6-12, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Matt Joyce (3-7, RBI, BB), James Loney (1-3), Wil Myers (2-3).
Brandon McCarthy: The Yankees have taken losses in four of McCarthy’s (9-14, 3.98 ERA) last six starts, including a 5-0 loss to the Rays back on August 15. Ironically or not, Alex Cobb was on the hill for the Rays in that game, and he was spectacular over 7-1/3 innings. To be fair, the Rays are 6-6 in Cobb’s last 12 starts even though he’s been outstanding. If this is a comparison of Wednesday’s starters, the biggest difference is the number of runs McCarthy and Cobb have given up. Cobb has held opponents to two runs or fewer in 12 consecutive games — for a total of 15 runs — while McCarthy has given up 13 runs in half as many starts. Unfortunately for the Rays, that’s more of an implication of the Yankees inept offense than it is to McCarthy’s pitching. Key matchups: Curt Casali (1-3), Yunel Escobar (2-6), Kevin Kiermaier (1-3), Jose Molina (3-1, 2B), Sean Rodriguez (2-8).
- Per Marc Topkin, “After taking two of three from the Rays last week, the Yankees lost two of their first three at Baltimore, scoring only four runs. SS Derek Jeter’s farewell tour isn’t going well of late, as he went into play Sunday hitless in his past 20 at-bats. 3B Chase Headley has not played since being struck in the jaw by a Jake McGee pitch Thursday. OF Chris Young continues his sizzling stretch that started against the Rays, hitting .417 in six games with eight RBIs. The bullpen, led by David Robertson and Dellin Betances, has been dominant. Key stat: The Yankees have used a team record-tying 56 players this season, including eight who made their major-league debuts.”
- The Rays lead the season series 9-7; Yankees lead the overall series 172-119, though Rays are 40-39 since 2010 and 79-66 at Tropicana Field.