The Rays salvaged the series finale against the Yankees in 13 innings on April 29 in New York, although they’ve have lost four straight against the Evil Empire at home — extending back to 2014. Sure, the Yankees have posted a 5-1 record against the Rays this season, however, the good guys were not competitive in only one of those losses.
Strong performances from the bullpen have kept the New York Yankees at the top of the AL East. Yet Tampa Bay’s relievers have also pitched well, allowing just one run over the last 15-1/3 innings. That said, it is incumbent upon Tampa Bay to score early and hold the lead throughout. The undisputed leader of the Rays, Evan Longoria, has been quiet against New York this season, going 4-22. But, he’s started to get toasty and is fully capable of putting good numbers against CC Sabathia on Monday. He’s owned the swarthy lefty over his career, going 24-58 (.414 BA) with six homers, eight doubles, 14 RBI and a 1.390 OPS.
A caveat, they’ll need to neutralize Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann. Rodriguez went 4-10 with two home runs and six runs scored during the previous meeting at Tropicana Field, and Gardner scored four runs with three steals in the same series.
Sitting just three games out of first, Tampa Bay has vs an excellent opportunity to gain some ground on New York.
CC Sabathia: Sabathia is off to one of the worst starts of his career. He’s allowed at least four runs in four of his six starts and at least one home run in his past three. Furthermore, he ranks among the worst pitchers in baseball with 11.13 hits allowed per nine innings. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (3-11, HR, RBI, BB), David DeJesus (16-57, 7 2B, HR, 6 RBI), Logan Forsythe (4-9, 2B, HR, RBI), James Loney (5-20, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (24-58, 8 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 13 BB).
Nathan Eovaldi: Per Rotowire, Eovaldi (3-0) allowed three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three in 5.2 innings in Thursday’s win over the Orioles. The 25 year-old righty has a high octane fastball, a slider with a good amount of depth and run that generates a lot of whiffs, and a splitter that’s been used as a change-up. The problem with his splitter, batters have figured out the pitch. Case in point, after throwing four straight to Pablo Sandoval, the swarthy third baseman absolutely crushed the last one of the sequence (see below).Adam Warren: Per Rotowire, Warren allowed two runs over 4-2/3 innings in Friday’s win over the Orioles. Lest you forget about Warren’s 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). Tampa Bay got to Warren to the tune of four runs on six hits on April 17th, yet didn’t fare well against him the next time they faced him. Warren held the Rays to one run on five hits through 5-2/3 in that outing. Whatever the case, the see-saw pitcher has relinquished four earned runs in three of his six starts. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (2-7, 2B), Logan Forsythe (2-6, HR, RBI), James Loney (4-9, HR, 5 RBI), Evan Longoria (4-13, BB), Rene Rivera (1-2), Steven Souza Jr. (2-5).
Chase Whitley: Per Rotowire, Whitley got tagged for five runs on six hits (including three home runs) and two walks in 5-2/3 innings Saturday against the Orioles, striking out five. Whitley was very good against the Rays in April, allowing only one run on six scattered hits. Tampa Bay’s hitters hope to see that latter Whitley, not the former. As I wrote previously, the righty has a fastball in the low 90s, a change-up that drops into the mid to low 80s, a slider and a sinker. His change-up induced whiffs 23% of the time last season. Though his BB/9 fell dramatically over the last two seasons, it spiked up to 3.18 in Triple-A in his last 17 innings of work. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (3-4, 2B, RBI), Logan Forsythe (1-2, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-2, 2B), James Loney (1-3).
— RHP Alex Colome enters Monday’s start having not issued a walk in his two previous outings — the first time he has had back-to-back starts without a walk in his career. Juxtapose that with his previous five games when he walked 10 and averaged 4.3 BB/9 in his career.
— SS Nick Franklin resumed his rehab assignment for Triple-A Durham on Sunday, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
— Closer Jake McGee is expected to make his fifth rehab appearance for Durham on Monday. He could return to the fold by weeks end.
— Enny Romero allowed three hits and one walk in five scoreless innings for Durham. He fanned four in his first Triple-A start of the season, after a back injury derailed his spring.
— LHP Drew Smyly will undergo a second MRI today on his left shoulder to get a second opinion after the first MRI taken last week that revealed a tear in the labrum, writes Roger Mooney (Tampa Tribune). A decision on Smyly has yet to be made by the team.
— Our next watch party is just around the corner, on Saturday May 16. Hope to see all of you at Green Bench Brewing Company.