One last game between the Rays and the Bronx Bummers before the GTFO of town. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After a 2-1 win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field — their second consecutive victory, mind you — the Tampa Bay Rays have an opportunity to sweep the three-game set this afternoon.

At 74-57 on the season, the Rays enter play a season-high 15 games above .500, having won five straight games. They are still atop the American League Wildcard race, percentage points in front of Seattle (and one ahead of the Mariners in the loss column). They are also just four games behind New York (and three games back in the loss column). A win would even the season series at eight games apiece.

Some food for thought on the American League playoff race before we move on. Note: Click the arrows in the embedded photo to switch between playoff probability graphs.

Corey Kluber got the start against the Yankees on Saturday, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out four and walking none over seven innings. It was a vintage Kluber performance, as he limited the Yankees’ offense to just two hits. He tossed 62 of 88 pitches for strikes (70% strike rate) across seven frames — his longest outing of the season. Kluber is on a streak of four quality starts, and has five quality starts in his last six games with the exception being a seven-run clunker against Baltimore. Since that game spiked his ERA to 4.40, Kluber has pitched well and his ERA now sits at 4.00, while his FIP sits at a reduced 3.62 (with a 3.85 xFIP), with a 6.78 K/BB, and a 1.12 WHIP across 141.2 innings.

Meanwhile, the Rays’ offense put Kluber on the winning side of the ledger in the third inning. Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt retired the first six batters in order before Francisco Mejía singled off the glove of first baseman DJ LeMahieu. José Siri followed with a base hit to centerfield, while Taylor Walls sacrificed the runners up to second and third. Yandy Díaz came up with the big blow against Schmidt, hitting a comebacker that scored a pair for a two-run advantage.

That isn’t to say Tampa Bay didn’t leave some chicken on the bone, as the Rays went 2-for-4 wRISP, which isn’t so bad, but they also stranded five men on the bags and played sloppy baseball along the way.

The New What Next

Shawn Armstrong (2-1, 3.73 ERA with Tampa Bay) will open for the Rays on Sunday, pitching in front of Ryan Yarbrough (1-8, 4.87 ERA). They’ll be opposed by Frankie Montas (0-2, 7.01 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough took a step back after a pair of great outings, allowing five runs on eight hits across 3.1 innings. He struck out three. In so doing, the left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Durham to create a spot for Garrett Cleavinger on the active roster. Yarbrough took over in the second inning after JT Chargois put up a scoreless start, and promptly gave up a run in the frame. He then gave up two runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings. Yarbrough had tossed 8.1 scoreless frames over his previous two outings but his ERA now sits at 4.87 through 16 appearances, with a 4.49 FIP (4.64 xFIP), a 3.00 K/BB, and a 1.38 WHIP. Poor outcomes aside, Yarbrough is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two outings (one start) against New York this season.

Frankie Montas allowed four runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out six batters over six innings on Monday against the Angels. Montas threw 62 of 91 pitches for strikes (68% strike rate) and induced 15 swings-and-misses, but his inability to keep the ball in the park did him in. He was rocked by solo shots from Luis Rengifo and Mike Ford before serving up the decisive two-run homer to Shohei Ohtani in the fifth inning. Montas hadn’t surrendered more than two long homers in any contest before Monday, so this was more of an aberration than the norm for him. He’s yet to get into the win column with New York, going 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 25.2 innings through five starts. Montas is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season (13.1 innings of work with the A’s). Key Matchups: Francisco Mejía (2-5, 2B), Harold Ramírez (2-4, RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

Rays 9/4/22 Starting Lineup

  1. Díaz 3B
  2. Choi 1B
  3. Margot RF
  4. Arozarena LF
  5. Peralta DH
  6. Paredes 2B
  7. Bethancourt C
  8. Walls SS
  9. Siri CF