Former Ray Steve Pearce is forced out at second by second baseman Brad Miller, who was placed on the 10-day DL Thursday. (Photo Credit: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times)

The Tampa Bay Rays return home from a 4-2 road trip, to begin a three-game series against the AL East Division leading New York Yankees. The Yankees are up six games up on the Rays, however, things can easily change this weekend.

Not only did the Rays post their first winning road trip of the season, but they are coming off a pair of winning series’ at the hands of the Red Sox and Cleveland — of which they averaged 6-1/2 runs per game. Meanwhile the Yankees, we able to take the series from the suddenly hot Royals, although they dropped the finale by a 5-1 margin. They also have lost five of their last eight overall.

(Stats: ESPN)

This series features three of the hottest hitters in baseball, those being Aaron Judge, Starlin Castro, and Corey Dickerson.

For the Rays, though Logan Morrison leads the team with 11 home runs, Dickerson — who has nine homers to go along with 53 hits (23 XBH) — is the hottest hitter overall.

For New York, Judge is leading the majors with 14 home runs, and is fifth in slugging percentage (.720) and runs scored (32). Castro is first in the majors in base hits (38) and hits overall (54), sixth in batting average (.351), and seventh in runs scored (29).

The AL East rivals have played each other six times this season, with New York leading the series 4-2. However, the Rays are 2-1 against the Yankees at the Trop, where the series will be played.

(Stats: FanGraphs)

Kevin Cash will throw Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 2.92 ERA, 3.65 FIP), Matt Andriese (3-1, 3.18 ERA, 4.45 FIP), and Chris Archer (3-2, 3.70 ERA, 3.16 FIP) over the next three days. Joe Girardi will counter with Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA, 3.75 FIP), Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA, 5.37 FIP), and CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.93 ERA, 4.84 FIP).

Pitching Matchups

Ramirez moved into the starting rotation after Blake Snell was optioned to Triple-A Durham. That isn’t to question Ramirez’s ability to start games, as he has made spot starts on and off the last two seasons. In his last start, against the Detroit Tigers, Erasmo fired five innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits while striking out five batters. The right-hander has worked to a 2-0 record with a 2.92 ERA/3.65 FIP.

Severino allowed three runs on six hits and three walks over 2-1/3 innings Sunday. He struck out two and hit a batter in the no-decision. Severino posted seven strong innings against the Rays back on April 13, allowing just two runs on five hits. In the month of May, the hard throwing right-hander has allowed nine runs over his last 15 innings of work. Key matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-2, HR, RBI), Corey Dickerson (3-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-9, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2, RBI)

Andriese battled against the Red Sox in his last start, allowing just two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out five batters over five innings. The right-hander has been solid, although the outcome of this game likely depends upon which Tanaka shows up to pitch for New York on Saturday.

Tanaka was tagged for eight runs on seven hits and one walk over just 1-2/3 innings on Sunday by the Astros. He has shown some promise this season, winning each of his previous five starts, and allowing a total of 11 earned runs in that span. Yet at other times it looks like he’s throwing batting practice. Tanaka allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 2-2/3 innings of work against Tampa Bay on Opening Day. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3, 2B), Corey Dickerson (6-16, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (6-12, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB) 

Archer relinquished seven runs (six earned) on five hits and six walks over five innings on Monday. He fanned six batters. The right-hander was undone in the first when he allowed three runs on three walks and two hits — including a three-run blast by Lonnie Chisenhall. And though he settled down, Archer still struggled with his control en route to a new season high in walks. He looks to bounce back against Grimmace on Sunday.

Sabathia fired 6-2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday night, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out four. Sabathia has beaten the Rays once this season, in a five-inning start where he allowed just three hits and a big ol’ goose egg. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (3-8, 2B, RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (4-8, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (30-73, 9 2B, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 14 BB), Logan Morrison (2-3), Derek Norris (3-11, 2B, HR5 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (6-14, HR, RBI, 2 BB)

Noteworthiness

— After missing the last two games with abdominal soreness, Brad Miller was officially placed on the 10-day DL Thursday afternoon with a lower abdominal strain, retroactive to May 16. He is available to return to the fold as early as May 26.

In his place, the Rays purchased the contact of Michael Martinez from the Cleveland Indians for money and a player to be named later. The team moved LHP Xavier Cedeño to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Martinez.

Martinez has played in a total of 282 games between 2011 to 2017, posting a total of -2.7 WAR over that time. In his most recent claim to fame, Martinez the player who made final out of 2016 World Series for Cleveland, in the loss to the Cubs.

Daniel Robertson will handle the starting second base duties in Miller’s absence, with Martinez serving as infield bench depth.

— The Rays plan to promote Jose De Leon to Triple-A Durham next week. He has been working his way from a spring flexor issue with the Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

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