The top two teams in the AL East will kick off a four-game series in the Bronx, Monday night. The Tampa Bay Rays look to gain ground in the division, while the Yankees set their focus on extending their lead. Tampa Bay closed a four-game, three-day series against Baltimore on Sunday, winning 4-1 and taking three of four in the series. New York finished its three-game home set against Toronto on Sunday afternoon, winning the rubber match 4-2.
The Rays bounced back from a loss in the first game of a day-night doubleheader Saturday to win the nightcap and followed it up with a win to close the set Sunday behind a strong pitching performance from the tandem of Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough. The Rays enter the current series second in the AL East, six games behind New York in the standings. They currently hold the first Wildcard spot.
New York bounced back from a tough, low-scoring loss on Saturday to prevail in the rubber game against Toronto. As a result of the loss, the Yankees let the Rays to gain 1/2 game.
The Rays have not fared well against the Yankees this season, having won just four of their 13 previous meetings, and just one at Yankee Stadium. What’s more, New York has a +33 run differential against Tampa Bay. Yet, there’s no time like the present for the Rays to flip the script on the Evil Empire. Over the last 14 days, the Rays have outperformed the Yanks in every important offensive category including OPS (.812 vs .741), ISO (.203 vs .173), wOBA (.342 vs .316), wRC+ (117 vs 94), and wRAA (8.6 vs -1.0).
These are a big four games. We’re going to try to close that gap on them. They’ve been playing great baseball all year and obviously, we’ve had our trouble with them this whole year.— Kevin Kiermaier
Rays hitters — namely Nate Lowe, Mike Brosseau, Tommy Pham, and Austin Meadows — have gotten toasty, and the starters tasked with taking on this formidable opponent have pitched well of late. Expect fireworks in this all-important series.
The teams split a four-game set at the Trop from July 4-7.
Over the next four days, Kevin Cash will throw Blake Snell (5-7, 4.70 ERA), a pitcher to be named before Tuesday’s contest, Yonny Chirinos (8-4, 3.11 ERA), and Charlie Morton (11-2, 2.35 ERA). Aaron Boone will counter with James Paxton (5-4, 4.01 ERA), C.C. Sabathia (5-4, 4.03 ERA), Diego German (10-2, 3.49 ERA), and J.A. Happ (7-5, 4.93 ERA).
Blake Snell allowed one run on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts across five innings of work. Even though he didn’t get the win, Snell followed his 12-strikeout performance from his last start with another stellar, albeit labor intensive, outing. The Yankees worked the hurler over his 93 pitch (62 strikes, 67% strike rate) outing, yet Snell certainly didn’t get any help from the home plate umpire, who made more than a few egregious calls. For the fifth time in his last seven appearances, Snell averaged more than a strikeout per inning, as he lowered his ERA to 4.70 ERA with 122 strikeouts across 90 innings.
James Paxton fanned 11 while allowing two runs on seven hits and no walks through against the Rays on Sunday. Paxton allowed a hit to each of the first three batters he faced and surrendered both runs in the first inning, but afterward, he effectively shut down the Rays coaxing 20 swinging strikes (15 of which came on his fastball). The southpaw has allowed just three runs and has 14 strikeouts in his last two starts. Look for the Rays to pounce on mistakes early; Paxton has a reputation for trouble at the beginning of games with a 10.20 ERA in the first inning and a 2.49 ERA in all other frames. He now is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in four career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Yandy Diaz (2-3, 2B), Avisail Garcia (4-8, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), Tommy Pham (2-6, 2 2B, RBI)
C.C. Sabathia allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts across seven innings in a no-decision against Tampa Bay on Saturday. Even though he didn’t capture his third consecutive win, Sabathia did post his third straight quality start. He’s pitched fairly well since the beginning of June, although a couple of bad outings have bloated his ERA to 4.67 in his last six starts. He now is 18-16 with a 3.59 ERA in 52 career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Micheal Brosseau (1-2, BB), Travis d’Arnaud (5-15, RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (6-19, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Nate Lowe (1-2, HR, 2 RBI), Tommy Pham (4-13, RBI, BB), Joey Wendle (1-2)
Yonny Chirinos allowed just two runs on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts across seven innings. The Orioles scored two-out runs in the third and fourth innings, their only tallies against the Rays starter. The 25-year-old turned in his best outing since June 7, although he has pitched well over the last month plus. Overall, Chirinos is 8-4 with a 3.11 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 89 punch outs across 107 innings this season.
Domingo German tossed six scoreless frames against the Blue Jays on Friday, fanning seven and walking none while allowing just three hits. He coaxed 13 whiffs on his curveball in the outing. German’s breaking ball may not have a reputation yet, but it is one of baseballs best curves. He hit a bit of a rough patch in four starts from the middle of May to the beginning of June (7.32 ERA, 1.53 WHIP), but has pitched well otherwise this season. German is 2-0 with a 6.75 ERA in four career outings (three starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-7, 2B, BB), Ji-Man Choi (1-2, HR, RBI, BB), Avisail Garcia (1-2), Brandon Lowe (1-3), Austin Meadows (2-3, 2B, HR, 2 RBI)
Charlie Morton gave up two runs on six hits over six innings on Saturday. He struck out six and walked one. Morton got into a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, consequently allowing a two-run single, yet he kept the Orioles in check otherwise. The 35-year-old has allowed up 10 runs (eight earned) total and has a 6.83 K/BB in his last five starts (31-1/3 innings).
J.A. Happ allowed two runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five across 5-1/3 innings on Saturday. Happ has now dropped his last two turns after winning six consecutive decisions from May 9 to June 18. That streak ended with a thud, as the Astros hung an eight-spot on Happ in his final start of June. He is now 5-4 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Travis d’Arnaud (1-4, BB), Avisail Garcia (5-14, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Austin Meadows (1-3), Tommy Pham (3-5, 2B, BB), Mike Zunino (3-11, RBI, BB)