Coming off of a disappointing 3-4 road trip, the Rays are coming home to host the Yankees for a three game set under the big top. Tampa Bay was able to salvage the last two games of the Blue Jays series, gaining some ground against the Yankees who are ahead of the Rays by 3.5 games. To say that this upcoming series is important, is like saying that CC Sabathia looks like Grimmace. (Shhh, just don’t say it too loud) That is to say, the importance of this series goes without saying.
The Yankees have been struggling mightily of late, losing nine of their last 15 games, including two out of three at the hands of the Orioles in their last series. It bears mentioning that the mighty Evil Empire produced only eight runs in three games. The Yankees have been plagued by injuries of late, (see below) and have gone 18-18 since Alex Rodriguez broke his hand back on July 25th. He could be back tomorrow, but who really gives two craps about A-Rod, right? I know I don’t!
With 16 of the next 23 games coming against presumptive post-season contenders, the Rays find themselves in a make or break gauntlet of sorts. If Tampa Bay does well, they stand to make up a lot of ground against the Yankees and Orioles. However if they don’t succeed, it can be argued that they may as well count themselves out of their fourth post-season appearance in five years. In any case, it’s about to get real. If the Rays can continue to suppress the opposition’s offense while scoring five or more runs per game, things could get real interesting. Mind you, at this point last season they were nine games out, and you saw how last season ended. The Rays offense could be blossoming…and at just the right time.
- The holiday series. Whether by design or coincidence, the Rays are taking on that team from the Bronx on a holiday for the third time this season.
- The Yankees are just 24-24 since the All-Star Break, and 18-18 since July 25th.
- When comparing how the Rays compare to the Yankees, (offensively, over the last 14 days) one thing is glaringly obvious: the Rays have been more productive in the span of the last two weeks. When was the last time you saw that?
- Put this in your pipe and smoke it: In recent weeks the Yankees have just nine stolen bases. In the same period of time, the Rays have 23 stolen bases. Of the Rays, Desmond Jennings, Sam Fuld, and B.J. Upton have been particularly productive on the base-paths, with each stealing at least five bags.
- Tampa Bay scored 15 runs in their last four games, with 14 of those runs coming in the last two games. Here’s to hope that they can use Saturday’s exciting win and Sunday’s nine run, 18 hit shellacking, as momentum going into this upcoming series and home stand.
- True, Sabathia is 13-4 with a 3.40 ERA this season. He’s also 1-4 with a 4.03 ERA in seven starts against the Rays at the Trop.
- Riding a wave of momentum, Tampa Bay racked up a season-high 18 hits in Sunday’s 9-4 win at Toronto.
- Role reversal? The Rays are 8-7 in their last 15 games, averaging 4.2 runs per game. On the other hand, the Yankees are 5-10 in their last 15 games, averaging 3.3 runs per game.
- Plagued by injuries you say? The Yankees currently have nine players that are either day-to-day or on the DL: Brett Gardner (60-Day DL), Mark Teixeira (Day-to-Day), Curtis Granderson (Day-To-Day), Andy Pettitte (60-Day DL), David Aardsma (60-Day DL), Alex Rodriguez (15-Day DL), Andruw Jones (Day-To-Day), Ivan Nova (15-Day DL). To be fair, Rodriguez (among others) could be reactivated as soon as this week.
- How do the Rays hitters match up to the Yankees starters?
- CC Sabathia: The Rays have posted a .240 BA/.312 OBP/.429 SLG/.741 OPS line against Sabathia, with 32 extra base hits, including 14 homers. Key Matchups: Sam Fuld (1-3, 3B, RBI), Chris Gimenez (3-7, 1 RBI), Evan Longoria (13-33, 3 2B, 5 HR, 8 RBI), Jeff Keppinger (9-21), BJ Upton (14-51, 4 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI), Ben Zobrist (11-51, 2B, 3B, HR, 7 RBI).
- Freddy Garcia: The Rays have posted a .217 BA/.250 OBP/.302 SLG/.552 OPS line against Garcia, with six extra base hits in 129 cumulative at-bats. Key match-ups: Sam Fuld (1-3, 2B), Evan Longoria (2-5, 2B, RBI), Jose Molina (10-26, 2B, 2 RBI), Luke Scott (2-4), BJ Upton (3-11, 3B, HR, RBI).
- Hiroki Kuroda: A limited number of Rays have faced Kuroda. Nevertheless, those who have have posted a .295 BA/.392 OBP, .432 SLG/.824 OPS line, with a homer and seven RBI in 44 combined at-bats. Key match-ups: Matt Joyce (1-2, HR, RBI), Jose Lobaton (1-3, 2B), Luke Scott (3-3, 2B, RBI), Ben Zobrist (1-2, 2B, BB).