The Tampa Bay Rays departed from the Sunshine State on Sunday, en route to New York where they will start a three-game/four day set against the Yankees Monday afternoon — the second series against the Bronx Bummers in a week and a half.
Tampa Bay capped a massively successful 5-2 homestand with another come-from-behind win against the Blue Jays, a 7-2 contest that included a triplet of homers by Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., and Jesus Sucre. The 5-2 start marks the Rays’ best seven game start in team history, while they sit three games over .500 for the first time since July 2, 2015.
The Yankees, on the other hand, suffered their second consecutive series loss, this time to the Orioles; although they did salvage a win on Sunday for just their second win of the season. Speaking of losses, New York placed catcher Gary Sanchez on the 10-day disabled list with a right biceps strain that he incurred during an at-bat against Baltimore on Saturday.
Kevin Cash will throw Alex Cobb (1-0, 1.59 ERA), Blake Snell (0-1, 5.40 ERA), and Matt Andriese (0-0, 9.00 ERA) over the next three games. Joe Girardi will counter with Michael Pineda (0-1, 9.82 ERA), Luis Severino (0-0, 7.20 ERA), and Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 11.74 ERA).
Alex Cobb looked like, well…Alex Cobb on Wednesday, holding the Yankees to one run on four hits and a walk, while striking out four in 5-2/3 innings to earn the win. Yet with a 4.45 FIP and a minuscule .188 BABIP over the balance of his start, one can’t help but wonder how much of the favorable outcome had to do with good luck. In any case, including Wednesday’s win, the right-hander is 6-3 with a 2.82 ERA over his career against the Yankees, and 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four career starts at Yankee Stadium. He’s even better in daytime starts, collecting an 11-8 record with a 2.73 ERA. That he’s facing the Yankees during the day at Yankee Stadium holds a good omen for Cobb; no whammies.
Michael Pineda gets the call for the Yankees’ home opener, after surrendering four runs and eight hits over 3-2/3 innings to the Rays. Pineda is looking to snap a career-long 11-start win drought, with his last victory coming on August 5, 2016. He, however, might have his work set out for him against Tampa Bay, a team that he hasn’t fared well against over his career (2-5, 4.65 ERA against the Rays). To his credit, Pineda has good stuff — a worm killer of a cutter, a whiffy slider, and a hard swing and miss changeup — although he tends lose “it” once or twice a game, as evidenced by his last start against Tampa Bay. It’ll be up to the Rays to take advantage of Pineda when he starts to lose command and control of his pitches. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (8-14, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (5-20, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 4 BB), Brad Miller (7-20, 2 2B, 2 3B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Morrison (5-14, HR, 2 RBI, Derek Norris (1-2, 2 RBI), Mallex Smith (1-2), Steven Souza Jr. (10-21, 3 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBI)
Blake Snell allowed five runs in 6-2/3 innings in his first start of the year Thursday. The southpaw, however, was better than his line suggests, as one swing of the bat resulted in a grand slam from Kendrys Morales. His downfall continues to be his walks, and he had five of them against Toronto. Snell went 0-1 with a 4.70 ERA at Yankee Stadium last season.
Luis Severino pitched well throughout most of his season debut, yet a poorly placed fastball resulted in a three-run homer by Manny Machado — similar to Snell, his opponent on Wednesday. Severino boasts a 95 mph four seam fastball, a hard changeup, and a low ’90s slider, and has posted a 3-1 record with a 3.47 ERA in seven games (three starts) against Tampa Bay. However, he is 4-6 with a 4.93 ERA at Yankee Stadium. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (2-2, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-6, 2B, HR, RBI, BB)
Matt Andriese, who appears to be the weakest link in the Rays starting rotation, lasted just four innings Friday against Toronto, the fifth time since the start of last season he’s been unable to finish five innings (in 20 starts). He went 1-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two 2016 starts at Yankee Stadium, and 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA against the Yankees overall.
Masahiro Tanaka has been rather disappointing thus far, surrendering a career-high seven earned runs in just 2-2/3 innings against the Rays, and three runs over five innings against the Orioles. Tanaka walked four and hit two batters in that start. Tanaka typically boasts a potent four-pitch repertoire: a 91 mph sinker, an 88 mph splitter, a 92 mph four-seam fastball, and an 84 mph slider. He also rarely throws a 79 mph curveball and a 91 mph cutter. That mix has been spotty at best over his last 7-2/3 innings of work. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3, 2B), Corey Dickerson (6-16, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (6-12, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (1-2)
— All three Rays home runs Sunday came on two-strike counts: Corey Dickerson (1-2), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2), Jesus Sucre (0-2).
— Souza has six RBI in his past three games.
— Dickerson has reached base at least twice in five straight games.