The difference in the series finale against the Marlins: A two-out walkoff grand slam by INF Daniel Robertson. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

On Monday evening a pair of American League East rivals will begin a three-game series at the Trop, where the Tampa Bay Rays are set to grapple with the New York Yankees. The Rays are coming off their second consecutive series loss, while Yankees split a weather shortened series against their cross town rivals.

(Stats Credit: ESPN)

Tampa Bay has struggled of late, and the Rays did lose their first two games against Miami, but they were able to avoid an embarrassing home sweep at the hands of the Fish thanks to a five run rally in the bottom of the ninth to walk away with a 6-4 win. The big blow for the Rays came off the bat of Daniel Robertson, who hit a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam.

New York has the third best record in the American League, yet they have been average of late — entering the series 5-5 in the Yankees last 10 games. They have not been as strong on the road as at home, and have gone 16-22 at the Trop extending back to 2013. Still, the Yankees have a potent offense and will need to be pitched well against.

(Stats Credit: FanGraphs)

It’s not often you see the Rays out-performing the Yankees in the batter’s box, but the numbers don’t lie. A pitching glitch prior to the All-Star Break overshadows a Rays offense that has plated at least five runs in nine of their last 13 games, and has averaged 6.1 runs per game over that stretch.

Can they continue that trend against Luis Severino and company? That clearly will be a challenge. But, if the Rays are going to stave off the vultures at the trade deadline, and if they truly see themselves as a Wildcard contending club, albeit a fringe one at that, they will have perform well this week — and, ideally, walk away with a series win.

New York leads the season series 5-4 so far, although Tampa Bay swept the most recent matchup at Tropicana Field (June 22-24).

Pitching Probables

Kevin Cash will lean on the bullpen led by Hunter Wood (0-0, 2.70 ERA), Chih-Wei Hu (3-6, 5.02 ERA at AAA) — who could make a spot start for LHP Blake Snell, who was placed on the 10-day DL — and Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA) over the next three days. Aaron Boone will counter with Luis Severino (14-2, 2.31 ERA), Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.54 ERA), and Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA).

(Stats Credit: FanGraphs)

Hunter Wood will serve as the opener for Monday’s “bullpen day” game. The right-hander has been effective in his limited opportunities this season, performing to a 2.70 ERA and compiling 12 strikeouts over 13-2/3 innings. This will mark Wood’s second start of the season, with the first having come July 11, when he tossed 22 pitches in a scoreless first inning against the Tigers. Long relievers Ryan Yarbrough (8-5, 3.65 ERA) and/or Matt Andriese (2-4, 4.34 ERA) will likely follow.

Luis Severino yielded four runs on nine hits and a walk over five innings on Thursday. He gave up two home runs and struck out just one batter in the no-decision. Severino came into Thursday’s start with a 10.4 K/9, so the one-strikeout performance was surprising. He had lowered his ERA to 1.98 before allowing seven runs across 10 innings in his last two appearances. Still, the Yankees ace has been particularly tough against the Rays this season, allowing a combined two runs on eight hits in two starts (15-1/3 innings of work) with 16 punch outs. Key Matchups: Jake Bauers (1-2, BB), Carlos Gomez (1-4), Adeiny Hechavarria (2-5, HR, RBI), Mallex Smith (2-7)

On Blake Snell the Rays placed Blake Snell on the 10-day DL with left shoulder fatigue, retroactive to Friday, July 20. An MRI on his shoulder showed no structural damage, and he is expected to miss only one start. Snell told the local sports media his shoulder has felt fatigued for a couple weeks, although he is confident he will be back soon.

It’s just been fatigued for a little while, Snell said. Talked to (manager Kevin) Cash. Talked to the training staff, (pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder), everybody. We did what we thought was best for me moving forward.

I got an MRI, that was good. So I’m happy about that. Just, it’s been going on for a little bit. So we felt like taking one start off and resting and having this long break would be the best thing for me moving forward.

Chih-Wei Hu was recalled from Triple-A Durham on Monday as the corresponding move when Snell was placed on the DL. There’s a chance Hu will take Snell’s place in the rotation for Tuesday’s start, although that will be determined in the coming hours. Across two long-relief appearances with Tampa Bay this season, Hu has performed to a 5.87 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over 7-2/3 innings. Most recently Hu allowed five earned runs on eight hits during a four-inning start with Durham.

Masahiro Tanaka allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while fanning five over 6-1/3 innings on Sunday. He did not factor into the decision. The right-hander gave up a two-run lead in the fourth inning after surrendering a home run to Edwin Encarnacion. In spite three straight solid performances (six runs allowed over 15-2/3 innings), Tanaka doesn’t have a win to show for his efforts. The splitter throwing Tanaka has not faced the Rays this season. He has a 7-2 record against Tampa Bay in 11 career starts, but with a 4.10 ERA, and is 3-2 with a 5.96 ERA in five starts at the Trop. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (1-3), Matt Duffy (1-3), Carlos Gomez (3-10, 2B, RBI, BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (3-5, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (7-15, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-1, 2B), Jesus Sucre (1-2, 2B, RBI)

Nathan Eovaldi rebounded from his worst start of the season, allowing one run on six hits while fanning eight over six innings on Friday. The right-hander put together an impressive showing with his only earned run coming off a third inning solo homer by Derek Dietrich. Eovaldi managed to lower his ERA from 4.59 to 4.26 after his most recent performance, and remains the stuff of trade fodder leading up to the trade deadline.

Luis Cessa will be promoted from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Domingo German as the Yankees’ fifth starter. German took the hill in the Yankees’ first game out of the All-Star break and failed to escape the fourth inning, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks. Over 16 career starts in the big leagues, Cessa has performed to a 4.37 ERA in 82-1/3 innings, with 61 strikeouts. The Rays last saw him on June 22nd, when he tossed two shutout innings in relief of CC Sabathia. He gave up no hits, walked a pair, and struck out two. Over his career he is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 24 innings of work against the Rays. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (1-2, RBI), Carlos Gomez (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8, BB)


— The Rays are hopeful to have Kevin Kiermaier back in the lineup on Monday. Kiermaier had a cortisone shot in his bruised right foot on Saturday. Adeiny Hechavarria (left oblique soreness) also could be available after missing yesterday’s game, writes Neil Solondz (Rays Radio).

— Hopes for a series win hang on how well Mallex Smith, CJ Cron, Joey Wendle, and Carlos Gomez perform at the plate, especially in the Wilson Ramos’ absence. You can see their beefy slash lines in the month of July below:

Smith .432 BA/.476 OBP/.757 SLG/1.233 OPS/.505 wOBA/233 wRC+
Cron .373 BA/.431 OBP/.686 SLG/1.117 OPS/.460 wOBA/202 wRC+
Wendle .370 BA/.433 OBP/.648 SLG/1.081 OPS/.453 wOBA/197 wRC+
Gomez .349 BA/.472 OBP/.535 SLG/1.007 OPS/.439 wOBA/187 wRC+

— Wilson Ramos (hamstring) says he is feeling “a lot better,” and thinks he could return in about 10 days — in early August, but after trade deadline. He played catch on the field Monday, his first baseball activity since he suffered the injury on July 14.

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