With the offensive droughts plaguing CJ Cron and Jake Bauers, Joey Wendle’s bat has become very important in the Rays lineup. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Back at it Tuesday. The Tampa Bay Rays continue their three-city, nine-game road trip through the AL East in the Bronx, where they’ll face the New York Yankees in a three-game set. Both teams are coming off series wins against the Blue Jays and Rangers (respectively), although the Yankees lost an interleague makeup game against the Mets on Monday.

(Stats Credit: ESPN)

After finally figuring out the lowly Orioles, Tampa Bay took two-of-three from the Blue Jays. In all honesty, had Ryne Stanek laid a better tag on Kevin Pillar — as he slid across the plate for the go-ahead run in the series finale — the Rays likely would have swept Toronto. What’s done is done though, and a series win is a series win.

The Yankees are a good team no doubt about it, but it wasn’t that long ago that they dropped five in a row while being outscored 35-16. As it’s been said, good pitching defeats good hitting. If the Yanks can be kept in the yard, they can be contained. True, since the calendar flipped to August, the Yankees have hit 24 homers in their past 12 games. They also have 10 multi-homer games since August 1, including seven straight entering Monday night. Yet Rays’ hurlers have done a very good job at limiting the long ball, allowing none to New York in the last six contests.

(Stats Credit: FanGraphs)

Tampa Bay starts the series 10.5 games out of the second Wildcard spot, and because of it, the next two series will be of the “test their mettle” variety. A series win would go far for a couple of different reasons: not only would it add some separation in the win/loss columns, the Rays also have an opportunity to make up ground while the Mariners and Athletics — the two clubs ahead of them in the standings — beat up on each other over the next three days before the M’s start a series with the Dodgers, and the A’s start a series against the reigning World Series champs.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy; the Yankees are where they are for a reason. Nevertheless, it bears mentioning, Tampa Bay has won six of the last 10 games against the Evil Empire.

Pitching Probables

Aside for Hunter Wood (0-0, 3.91 ERA), who will open for the Rays on Tuesday, neither Kevin Cash nor Aaron Boone has set the rotation for the series. Clearly, you can see how difficult it is to prognosticate the hurlers for the series. What follows is an assumption of the pitching probables based who last pitched and when. Jalen Beeks (1-1, 9.15 ERA) could follow Wood in the opener and then could be followed by a pitcher to be named Wednesday and Blake Snell (13-5, 2.18 ERA) on Thursday. Boone could counter with JA Happ (12-6, 4.07 ERA), a pitcher to be named Wednesday, and Masahiro Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 ERA) on Thursday.

(Stats Credit: FanGraphs)

Hunter Wood allowed three runs on Thursday as the opener, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out just one. Wood otherwise has been solid when opening games, allowing just two runs in his previous five starts. His season ERA is now at 3.91 across 24-1/3 innings this season.

Jalen Beeks allowed one run on two hits (including a home run) and two walks over five innings against the Orioles. Beeks threw 68 pitches (44 strikes, 65% strike rate, 12/19 first-pitch strikes), struck out three and, impressively, has lowered his ERA from 15.94 to 9.15 (since July 28).

JA Happ yielded three runs on four hits and a walk across six innings in his last start. Happ struck out nine and gave up one home run while earning the victory. In his first start after a trip to the disabled list with an illness, the southpaw moved to 2-0 with the Yankees in a solid outing. He allowed a solo homer to Jurickson Profar in the fourth inning before a two-run double from Shin-Soo Choo in the fifth, although he threw a pretty clean start otherwise. In his two starts with New York, Happ has allowed just four runs in 12 innings. He will carry a 3.81 K/BB into Tuesday’s start. Happ, however, is 3-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 15 starts against the Rays and lost both turns against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Jake Bauers (1-3), Matt Duffy (5-12, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (4-16, 3 RBI, 2 BB)

Blake Snell collected six strikeouts and was very sharp overall, showing pitchability by keeping the Blue Jays off-balance throughout five innings of work. Snell was on a pitch limit to help him recover from the shoulder fatigue that sidelined him following the All-Star Break, and he likely will continue to be for one to two more starts until he is fully stretched out again. Even so, Snell dominated Toronto’s lineup, throwing five perfect innings.

The left-hander earned his 13th win of the season, his first since July 7th against the New York Mets, and lowered his ERA to 2.18 and his FIP to 3.41 in the process.

Masahiro Tanaka allowed six runs on six hits (including three homers) and three walks over five innings of work while striking out just two. Tanaka threw three scoreless frames to start the game before the wheels fell off, allowing homers to Adrian Beltre and Ronald Guzman in the fourth inning, a two-run double to Elvis Andrus in the fifth and another homer to Guzman to lead off the sixth. It likely was Tanaka’s worst of the season, tying the most runs he’s allowed in 2018 since he allowed six to Boston back on April 11. Be it as it may, Tanaka threw a complete game shutout against the Rays on July 24 and was absolutely dominant in doing so. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (3-6, 2B), Carlos Gomez (3-10, 2B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (7-19, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Jesus Sucre (2-5, 2B, RBI)


— The Rays made a roster move following the game on Sunday, optioning RHP Jamie Schultz to Durham (cough…where he can work on fastball command) ahead of the expected reinstatement of Chaz Roe from the disabled list.

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