The Tampa Bay Rays return to the Trop where they will open a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday — the start of their final home stand of the season. The Rays are fresh off a 5-6 road trip, while the Yankees limp in to St. Petersburg on the heels of a four-game sweep by their bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees were red-hot the last time they faced Tampa Bay, having won seven in a row and going for a four-game sweep of the Rays. However, they lost the series finale which began their current 1-7 downward spiral. New York has lost five straight and slipped to sixth place in the Wild-Card race. The Evil Empire also lost second baseman Starlin Castro (hamstring) and Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) over the weekend, with Ellsbury listed as day-to-day.
On the other side of the ledger, it was announced that Steven Souza Jr. will undergo left-hip surgery to alleviate an impingement on Wednesday, and he expects to be 100% for spring training. Depending on Nick Franklin’s status, as he sustained a hamstring injury in the series against Baltimore, either he or Jaff Decker will likely get Souza’s at-bats.
Going into this, the final meeting between the two teams this season, Tampa Bay holds a 7-9 record against the Yankees (4-2 at the Trop).
Kevin Cash will throw Drew Smyly (7-11, 4.98 ERA), Alex Cobb (1-0, 3.06 ERA), and Blake Snell (5-8, 3.87 ERA) over the span of the series. Joe Girardi will counter with Michael Pineda (6-11, 4.94 ERA), Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.97 ERA), and Luis Cessa (4-2, 4.44 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Smyly threw 5-2/3 innings of two run baseball on Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out four. The two runs came on a two-run homer by Russell Martin, leading to his removal two outs into the sixth.
Cobb worked around a trifecta of walks to allow just one run on two hits while fanning four over 6-2/3 innings on Wednesday. Even though he wasn’t as sharp as his first two outings of the season, Cobb has yielded just four walks over 17-2/3 innings. That’s not to suggest that he was terrible in this turn, after all he did snag the win, thanks in part to the run support he received early on.
Snell was shelled early on in his start on Thursday, pitching 4-1/3 innings while allowing four runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out six. After being given a three-run lead in the top of the first inning, Snell allowed four runs in the bottom of the frame. In all fairness he did settle down and held Baltimore scoreless for the next 3-1/3 innings until he was pulled in the midst of a self inflicted, fifth-inning jam.
Yankees Series Starters
Pineda, winless since August 5th, tossed four shutout innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday before inclement weather ended his night. He allowed two hits and two walks, and struck out five. The righty matched Clayton Kershaw in the early innings, before the weather cut his start short, after 82 pitches. And while the weather cannot be blamed on him, Pineda still hasn’t finish the fifth inning in each of his last three starts, while hurling seven innings only twice all season (29 starts). He posted 4-1/3 innings of work against Tampa Bay on September 9th, allowing two runs on six hits (including two homers) while walking two and striking out seven. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (6-10, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Logan Forsythe (5-12, 2B, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (4-15, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 4 BB), Luke Maile (1-3, 2 RBI), Brad Miller (5-15, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB)
Tanaka threw seven excellent innings on Thursday against Boston, surrendering just one run on four hits while walking three in a no-decision. He, however, did not notch a strikeout for the first time in his career. He put together a strong performance against the division-leading Red Sox while lowering his ERA to 2.97. He was even better against the Rays on September 10th, slashing 7.1 IP/5 H/1 ER/1 HR/10 K. Over his past eight starts (53-1/3 innings), Tanaka is 6-0 with a 1.86 ERA and 48 strikeouts. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (3-11, 2B, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (4-8, 3B, HR, RBI), Bobby Wilson (1-3, HR, RBI)
Cessa has been on the losing end of his last two starts, but New York reportedly feels like those have been decent outings. He’ll be facing a Rays ball club that tagged him with three homers on September 11th in New York, handing the righty his first big league loss. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-6, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Logan Forsythe (1-4, HR, RBI), Evan Longoria (2-6, 2B, 3 RBI), Brad Miller (2-7, HR, RBI)
— Evan Longoria is 10-22 with three homers and eight RBI while maintaining a five game hitting streak.
— Didi Gregorius is 7-15 during a four-game hitting streak.
— Gary Sanchez has homered in his last two games, giving him 16 home runs in 41 games this season.