The Tampa Bay Rays return home on a massive wave of momentum after collecting a pair of series wins against the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. The team welcomes* the New York Yankees into Tropicana Field for a three game set, starting Friday. While Tampa Bay is riding high, New York has maintained its rightful place in the bottom of the AL East. At 3-6 thus far, New York has not won a series in this still young 2015 season, due in part to a combined .227 batting average and a 5.07 ERA among their starters.
Although trips to Tropicana Field were at one point easy pickings for the the Yankees, the Evil Empire has struggled since 2010, having lost 14 of its last 22 games, and 21 of 33 against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field — New York is 0-4-1 in the last five season series. Despite the sub-par season by the Rays, Tampa Bay was 11-8 versus New York in 2014.
Friday’s pitching match-up, Adam Warren vs. Nathan Karns: Warren is making the fifth start of his career, following a loss in his season debut in which he allowed two runs (one earned) over 5-1/3 innings. He is 0-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 10 relief appearances vs. the Rays. Karns put together a quality start on Sunday, notching his first win of the season after holding the Marlins to one earned run on two hits and two walks while striking out six in seven innings.
Saturday’s pitching match-up, Masahiro Tanaka vs. Jake Odorizzi: Tanaka picked up a win in his last outing, after allowing four runs (three earned) in five innings. A caveat, he burned through 97 pitches in those five innings. Odorizzi didn’t allow a run until his 12th inning of the season, which came in his second start of the season against Toronto. He allowed just one run on two hits in that contest. Odorizzi is 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA in five career appearances vs. the Yankees.
Sunday’s pitching match-up, Michael Pineda vs. Matt Andriese: Pineda struck out nine and picked up a victory in his last start at Baltimore, however, he surrendered five runs and nine hits in 6-1/3 innings.
*Welcomes is the best word I could think of. I’m open to suggestions.
Adam Warren: Warren has been compared to Kevin Correia and Zach Greinke for his four pitch repertoire — fastball (both four and two seam, averages 94 mph), a whiffy change-up (averages 85 mph, has good depth and run), slider/cutter (averages 86 mph, has good depth and run), and curveball (averages 80 mph, has decent depth and run). Like Greinke, Warren’s rising fastball is complemented by good sinking pitches. Warren also tends to get a lot of ground balls with his curve. Key match-ups: Brandon Guyer (1-3), Desmond Jennings (1-3, RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-1), Evan Longoria (2-8, BB).
Masahiro Tanaka: Tanaka isn’t off to the greatest of starts since returning from the DL, allowing seven earned runs in nine total innings of work. Many believe it might be time for Tanaka to go under the knife, to repair his partially torn UCL. That’s neither here or now. What is known about Tanaka, his velocity has dropped which appears to have made him a more hittable pitcher. A couple of Rays put together solid at-bats against Tanaka last season, while the team as a whole his hitting .300 BA/.300 OBP/.600 SLG/.900 OPS. let’s hope the trend continues. Key match-ups: Davi DeJesus (2-3), Desmond Jennings (1-3, HR, RBI).
Michael Pineda: In 12-2/3 innings of work against Tampa Bay, the fastball/slider/change-up throwing righty has given up six runs (five earned) on 14 hits including two homers. He, however, has posited a healthy 3.55 ERA against the Rays. Key match-ups: David DeJesus (4-15, 2B), Desmond Jennings (2-5, 2B).
— Evan Longoria is listed as day-to-day after getting hit by a pitch in the upper left leg/hip area in Thursday night’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. Prior to the eventful eighth inning, Chris Archer hit two Blue Jays’ batters, leading many — Longoria and manager Kevin Cash included — to believe Marco Estrada’s HBP was intentional:
Marco and I went to school together, Longoria said. We have a history of friendship. I don’t have any hard feelings toward him. It escalated, and it looks a lot worse. … But ultimately, I guess you have to protect your guys. And I’m sure he’ll say it wasn’t intentional, but he’s only hit a handful of guys in a bunch of innings in the big leagues.
Diagnosed with a bruised hip, the Rays third baseman will be re-evaluated prior to the series opener:
Longoria is fine, Rays manager Kevin Cash said. I think he’ll be day to day. We’ll evaluate him (on Friday).
Longoria has played in 179 consecutive games, and if it was left up to him, he’d make an appearance at some point Friday:
I’m going to do my best to play, Longoria said. My gut feeling right now is that I’ll play. I really, there’s nothing structurally wrong.
— Through his first 10 games, Kevin Kiermaier is hitting .344 (11-for-32) with two home runs and eight extra-base hits.
— Tim Beckham hit a two-run pinch-hit homer on Thursday, becoming the first Rays rookie to hit two such blasts in a season.
— You can say that again:
#Rays Longoria on HBP exchange w/BlueJays: “It should make for an interesting rest of the year against these guys.”
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 17, 2015
— Brett Gardner is expected to return to the Yankees’ lineup after being drilled on the right wrist by the Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen on Monday.