The Tampa Bay Rays ended their three-game series in Boston on a high note, scoring 12 runs on 15 hits against the Red Sox, and walking away with their second consecutive series victory. Even though the 12-8 victory wasn’t the tidiest or most graceful affair, the Rays can use the offensive outburst as a springboard of sorts when they begin a three-game series with the Evil Empire on Friday.
Things looked bleak for Tampa Bay in the early goings of the series finale with Boston. After taking a one-run lead off David Price in the top of the first, the Red Sox tagged starter Jake Odorizzi with five runs on six hits and an error. Yet the Rays struck back on an Evan Longoria solo shot in the third, and a six run/4 hit/2 error fourth which allowed them to retake the lead against their former ace. When asked about his homer, Longoria said he couldn’t make eye contact with his good friend Price: “I have too much respect for him.”
Both teams went back and forth between deficits, ties and leads before Tampa Bay went ahead for good in the eighth. All told, the Rays scored 18 runs over the last three games (an average of six runs per game) and went 8-for-30 with runners in scoring position for a respectable .267 wRISP.
The Rays’ overall production looks downright depressing. And with the exception of a slightly above average ISO, nothing really jumps out at you. However, over the last two series, the Rays have scored 28 runs (an average of 4.67 runs per game) while going 12-48 wRISP (good for a .250 BA). Their formula for success has been solid pitching ― not withstanding the outings by Chris Archer and Odorizzi, of course ― and timely hitting.
As for New York, at 5-9 on the season, the Yankees have sputtered during their worst 14-game start since 2005. They have produced a whopping 18 runs while hitting .212 during a 1-7 stretch. And if you think the Rays have traditionally looked bad wRISP, consider the Yankees’ anemic .101 with runners in scoring position over their last nine.
Prior to the series with the Athletics, Jeremy Koo (Athletics Nation) wrote a piece on New York’s offense. I’ve taken that framework and updated the numbers a bit to reflect the passing of time. Of the nine batters with at least 20 plate appearances, Mark Teixeira is seventh on the list in wRC+ with a 91 wRC+ (.182 BA/.357 OBP/.386 SLG/.643 OPS) thanks to his three home runs, but in sixth is Didi Gregorius at 62 (.250 BA/.261 OBP/.432 SLG/.663 OBP). New York’s leading hitter is Carlos Beltram with a 176 wRC+ (.327 BA/.333 BA/.633 SLG/.966 OPS). That is to say if the Rays pitching can shut down the mighty Yankees, they can walk away with another series victory.
If the Yankees have done something well, it’s stolen bases. As of Thursday, the Bronx Bummers were second in baseball with 13 ― just behind Houston, who’s racked up 15. Jacoby Ellsbury leads the Yankees with four stolen bags, followed by Chase Headley (3), Starlin Castro (2), Brett Gardner (2), Didi Gregorius (1) and Alex Rodriguez (1).
Tampa Bay skipper Kevin Cash will throw Matt Moore in the series opener on Friday, and Drew Smyly Sunday afternoon. It’s believed that Erasmo Ramirez (4-0, 1.29 ERA) will get the start Saturday, although it’s unclear as of now for since he pitched 1-1/3 innings on Thursday. Erasmo could still get the start, or Steve Geltz might if Cash opts for a bullpen day.
Moore is coming off a solid outing against the White Sox, fanning 10 in 6-⅓ innings with no walks. Tampa Bay has won all three of his starts. The lefty is 5-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 10 starts against the Yankees (3-1, 4.66 ERA in New York).
Smyly (0-2) threw eight scoreless innings against Boston on Tuesday, allowing just one hit and two walks while fanning 11. The lefty did not factor in the decision, however, as the game went into extra innings.
CC Sabathia: Due to a loss of velocity, Sabathia has become more “pitcher.” The southpaw didn’t get through the fifth inning of his most recent start Saturday against Seattle (on 95 pitches). The 15-year veteran surrendered a trio of earned runs for the second consecutive game, although he cut down his free passes to one after handing out four in his first start of the season against Detroit. Sabathia is 13-14 with a 3.73 ERA over 38 starts against Tampa Bay. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (6-15, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), Evan Longoria (24-64, 8 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 13 BB), Logan Morrison (2-3), Steven Souza Jr. (2-5, BB)
Masahiro Tanaka: Tanaka (1-0, 3.06 ERA) threw seven strong innings Sunday to collect his first win of the season, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits over seven innings while striking out six. He won a battle between former Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles teammates against Hisashi Iwakuma (currently with Seattle). Tanaka now sports a sharp 16/5 K/BB through 17-2/3 innings and three starts. Beware of the splitter! Tanaka relies upon an 86 mph extreme fly-ball inducing splitter, and a 90 mph worm burning sinker. He also mixes in an 83 mph slider, an 87 mph cutter and a 75 mph curveball. Key matchups: Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, 3B), Steve Pearce (1-3)
Michael Pineda: Pineda posted a quality start in his last outing, holding the Athletics to two runs and seven hits over six innings, while striking out seven.
Per ESPN Fantasy,
Pineda has now increased his strike out total in each of his three starts to begin the season. Many anticipated 2015 would be a breakout campaign for the Dominican native, but that never came to fruition. Though the right-hander has thrown well so far, there have been no indicators that 2016 will be vastly different than last season. Of course it’s early, but Pineda’s numbers to this point are unimpressive considering the lofty expectations many have for him.
He is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in seven career starts against Tampa Bay. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-2), Logan Forsythe (2-3, 2B), Desmond Jennings (3-8, 2B), Brad Miller (1-4, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (4-9, 2B, HR, 3 RBI)
― Evan longoria has collected 41 RBI in 58 games at new Yankee Stadium, the most of any visitor. His 14 homers are second most Jose Bautista’s 17.
― After being hit three times Thursday afternoon, Brandon Guyer became the only player in Major League history to be hit five times in under 30 plate appearances (Source: DRaysBay).
― New York is 0-4 against left-handed starters this season.
― Mark Teixeira is 3-33 with one RBI over over a 10 game stretch, while and Alex Rodriguez is batting .156 after going 0-2 Thursday.