For a pair of teams in contention at the official midpoint of the season, neither the Tampa Bay Rays nor the New York Yankees are playing like it. The division rivals look to put an end to their troubles at the expense of the other, when they open a three-game set in the Bronx on Friday.
It has been a streaky season for Tampa Bay, who is currently in the throes of a five-game losing streak after getting swept in four-games by the Cleveland Indians. Before going 2-9 over their last 11 games, the Rays went 9-2 over their previous 11 games. The team is 4-1 over their last five games against the Yankees.
New York hasn’t fared much better. The Yankees salvaged the finale of a three-game set against the Angels for their fourth win in 11 outings, going just 9-12 over a 21 game stretch. And while the Bronx Bummers have the second-best offense in the majors (averaging 4.67 runs per game), they find themselves in the bottom third of the league with a combined 4.03 ERA.
Tampa Bay started the season with a horrendous 0-6 record in head-to-head contests with New York yet, the Yankees have lost four of their last five games to the Rays.
Kevin Cash will send Chris Archer, Nathan Karns, and Erasmo Ramirez to the mound over the next three days. Archer (9-5, 2.31 ERA) suffered his first loss since the beginning of May in his last start Sunday, after allowing five runs on five hits — including a career-high three homers — in six innings against Boston. However, the right-hander sports a 5-0 career mark against the Yankees, with a 2.02 ERA and 0.82 WHIP — limiting the club to a .199 opposing batting average.
Karns (4-4, 3.26 ERA) lost despite a quality start Monday against Cleveland, allowing two runs on nine hits and two walks over six innings, while fanning seven. Ramirez (6-3, 4.01 ERA) took a hard-luck loss Tuesday against the Indians, allowing just one run on two hits over 5-2/3 innings. The smiley one struck out seven and walked just one.
Suffice it to say, each head-to-head series between and AL East rival is extremely important, setting the stage for an exciting set between the Yankees and Rays over the weekend.
Masahiro Tanaka: Tanaka (4-3, 3.88) blew an early six-run lead against Houston on Saturday, allowing a career-high three homers for the second straight start before walking away with a no-decision. The 26-year-old looks to rebound versus Tampa Bay, against which he improved to 2-0 in his career after scattering two hits and punching out eight over seven innings on April 18. Key matchups: David DeJesus (3-6), Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B), James Loney (2-3).
Michael Pineda: Per Rotowire, Pineda (8-5, 4.08 ERA) was a tough-luck loser against the Astros, pitching a complete game with eight strikeouts and three runs (two earned) Sunday. Pineda allowed two runs and three runs (respectively) in his two starts against Tampa Bay this season. While he’s given up four or more runs five times this season, none of those starts were against the Rays. Still, Tampa Bay has posted a decent .274 BA/.310 OBP/.400 SLG/.710 OPS combined line against the 26 year-old righty. Key matchups: David DeJesus (5-20, 2B, BB), Logan Forsythe (2-3, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, 3B, 2 RBI), James Loney (4-9), Grady Sizemore (1-4, 3B), Steven Souza Jr. (3-6, 2B, HR, 3 RBI).
CC Sabathia: Per Rotowire, Sabathia (3-8, 7.86 ERA) took his eighth loss as he allowed four runs on six hits and one walk over 7-1/3 innings Monday against the Angels. The swarthy left-hander put together an uncharacteristically good 7 IP/6 H/4 R/3 ER/2 HR/2 BB/9 K start against Tampa Bay on May 11th. Otherwise, the Rays have owned Sabathia, slashing a combined .293 BA/.352 OBP/.557 SLG/.909 OPS lined. Key matchups: Joey Butler (1-3, HR, RBI), Asdrubal Cabrera (5-14, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (6-12, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (24-61, 8 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 13 BB), Grady Sizemore (3-10, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2, BB).
— Each team should receive a boost to their lineup as James Loney and Jacoby Ellsbury are expected to return following their respective five-and six-week absences. On the subject of Loney’s return, Rays manager Kevin Cash said,
We’re excited to have him back. To be able to plug our first baseman that we anticipated being with us all year back in the lineup, that’ll help.
Loney is hitting .275 on the season for Tampa Bay, who just optioned 1B Marc Krauss to Triple-A Durham on Wednesday.
— Tampa Bay is 21-12 away from Tropicana Field.
— The Rays have traded numbers three and four international slots to the Atlanta Braves for RHP Garrett Fulenchek, who will pitch for the Advanced Rookie-level Princeton Rays. Fulenchek, who was the Braves second round draft pick in 2014, signed for $1M bonus. Tampa Bay got him for international slot money that they are limited in spending.
— Carlos Beltran is considered day-to-day after incurring a ribcage injury.
— Brett Gardner is in the midst of a hot streak, going 18-for-39 (.462) with nine runs scored during his nine-game hitting streak.