The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are set to start a four-game, wrap-around series in the Bronx on Thursday.
In the final weekend of July, Tampa Bay swept New York in a three-game series at Tropicana Field. Shortly after that series, New York saw the ungraceful exit of Alex Rodriguez, as well as the promotions of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin — all of whom have positively impacted the Evil Empire.
Coming into this series, the Yankees have won four straight and 10 of their last 14 games after completing a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-0 victory Wednesday — helping them to get within 2-1/2 games of the Baltimore Orioles for the Wild Card.
Tampa Bay is at the precipice of an 11-game road trip that could impact the AL East, as the team follows the extended stay in the Bronx with three in Toronto and three in Baltimore. The Rays are 26-33 against AL East.
Thursday marks the second start of Alex Cobb since his return from Tommy John surgery last Friday. The former (and possibly future) ace is excited for his start on Thursday, telling the media,
It’s going to be a good atmosphere. The Yankees are still in (the playoff race) and they are playing good baseball. This series is big for us too. The last month of the season is big for the organization as a whole. This is a chance for us to finish strong and build some momentum for next year
Kevin Cash will lean on Cobb (0-0, 3.60 ERA), Blake Snell (5-7, 3.39 ERA), Chris Archer (8-17, 4.06 ERA), and Matt Andriese (6-7, 4.58 ERA). Joe Girardi will counter with CC Sabathia (8-12, 4.20 ERA), Michael Pineda (6-11, 5.80 ERA), Masahiro Tanaka (12-4, 3.11 ERA), and Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.07 ERA).
Rays Series Starters
Cobb held Toronto to two runs on four hits while striking out seven over five innings on Friday, in his Major League return from Tommy John surgery. His first start in almost two years, while not perfect, was encouraging. Cobb settled down after a rough first two innings and retired the final 10 batters he faced.
Snell allowed just one earned run on two hits and two walks over six innings on Saturday. The southpaw put together one of the best starts of his career, in spite of the residual effects of a leg bruise incurred against Against Houston in his last start. Snell recorded 13 whiffs overall, and put in his longest outing since July 24 against the Athletics, while also snapping a two-start losing skid.
Archer surrendered two runs on five hits and a walk over 6-1/3 innings while fanning nine in a no-decision against Toronto on Sunday. He left the game with a 3-1 lead and a runner on first in the seventh inning, however, Brad Boxberger promptly allowed Toronto to tie the game, thus spoiling the victory for Archer. Prior to kicking September off with a quality start, he posted a solid 3.38 ERA in July and a 3.03 ERA in August.
Andriese was pounded by Baltimore on Monday, surrendering seven runs on nine hits and a walk over five innings. He struck out seven in the loss. The righty hasn’t fared well lately, as he’s allowed 14 runs over his last two starts. Andriese had an impressive 2.77 ERA in the first half of the season, but watched as his ERA ballooned to an ugly 4.58.
Yankees series starters
Sabathia allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings in a loss to Baltimore on Saturday. He struck out just one and walked two. He’s now collected four quality starts in his last five appearances, although he is just 2-2 over that span. While his ERA over the last 14 days sits at 2.84, his season ERA hasn’t changed. He also has a 1.35 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 150 total innings. Sabathia allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in a 6-3 win against the Rays on August 12th. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (8-19, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), Evan Longoria (28-70, 9 2B, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 13 BB), Logan Morrison (2-3), Steven Souza Jr. (3-9, 2 BB)
Pineda threw 87 pitches over four innings on Sunday, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while fanning four. He came away with a no-decision. It was his shortest, and most inefficient, outing since being chased by the Rays after 3-2/3 innings on May 28. Pineda has managed to pitch six innings just three times in his last six turns, posting a shaky 5.01 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 32-1/3 innings over that span. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (4-8, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Logan Forsythe (4-10, 2B), Nick Franklin (1-4, 2B, 2 BB), Luke Maile (1-3, 2 RBI), Brad Miller (5-13, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (8-17, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI)
Tanaka tossed 6-1/3 quality innings on Monday, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four. Tanaka now has collected five straight wins, and three quality starts in his last four turns. However, the seven hits allowed were the most in his last six starts, and the three walks were his most since the middle of May. He hurled less than 60% of his pitches for strikes and was just 13-27 in first-pitch strikes. Tanaka allowed four runs on five hits (including two homers) over seven innings against Tampa Bay on August 13th. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-8, 2B, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (4-8, 3B, HR, RBI)
Cessa looks to remain unbeaten in his fifth Major League start after going 2-0 with a 3.09 ERA through the first four. He, however, has been susceptible to the long ball, surrendering 10 homers in 42 big league innings. Cessa has allowed six earned runs on eight hits and two walks over seven combined innings of work against Tampa Bay this season. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (1-4, 2B), Nick Franklin (1-2, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (2-3, 2B, 3 RBI), Brad Miller (1-4)