After defeating the Los Angeles Angels 6-5 on Sunday, allowing Tampa Bay to earn a series split, the Rays hit the road for a 10-game, 11-day road trip. First stop the Bronx, where they’ll face the first-place Yankees. The Yankees are coming off a series split against the White Sox.
The Rays have the best road record in baseball at 23-10, yet this trip will be a challenging one. They’ll start in New York (2-4), fly across the country for a three-game set in Oakland (1-2), and cap things off in Minnesota (1-3) ― all while facing three teams that have won their respective sets against Tampa Bay this season. The first two series wrap up a 21-game, 20-day stretch of play without an off-day. So far, Tampa Bay is 8-6 over that spread.
New York is the only team to win a road series against Tampa Bay this season. In kind, this set provides a particularly tough matchup for a few reasons. As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) noted, one is that the Rays have had a difficult time lately against lefties, and two of the three pitchers New York will throw are southpaws (C.C. Sabathia and J.A. Happ). The other starter is Masahiro Tanaka (4-5, 3.58 ERA) who has already faced and won against the Rays twice this season.
The Yankees haven’t been firing on all their cylinders of late, however, they are expected to activate Edwin Encarnacion on Monday and Giancarlo Stanton on Tuesday. Tampa Bay will likely add another right-hander to the relief corps to compensate for New York’s right-handed heavy lineup.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will lean on bulk guys Yonny Chirinos (7-2, 2.88 ERA) and Ryan Yarbrough (5-3, 5.59 ERA) in some capacity, and left-hander Blake Snell (4-5, 3.70 ERA). Aaron Boone will counter with Masahiro Tanaka (4-5, 3.58 ERA), J.A. Happ (6-3, 4.66 ERA), and the ever swarthy C.C. Sabathia (3-4, 4.42 ERA).
Yonny Chirinos allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk across six innings against the Athletics on Wednesday. He struck out seven. Oakland had traffic on the basepaths most of the night, yet they only scored against Chirinos on an infield single and solo home rum. The Rays didn’t give right-hander much run support, although they did score twice in the seventh inning to tie the game and get him off the hook. Chirinos enters play with a 7-2 record and a 2.88 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and 62 strikeouts across 75 innings this season. He is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA across 19-1/3 career innings against the Yankees, and 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA across 4-2/3 innings at Yankee Stadium.
Masahiro Tanaka allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and no walks over 6-2/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets on Tuesday. He struck out seven. Tanaka ran into trouble in the third inning when he allowed a run on a Juan Lagares infield single and a three-run homer to Jeff McNeil. He steadied after that, relinquishing just one more run on a sixth-inning RBI single and pitched into the seventh inning. The right-hander has a 3.58 ERA and 1.18 WHIP this season and is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two 2019 starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (4-11, 2 2B, BB), Avisail Garcia (5-18, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Guillermo Heredia (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (8-28, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Tommy Pham (4-11, 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Joey Wendle (3-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Mike Zunino (5-16, 2 2B, HR, RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough allowed five runs on five hits and one walk across six innings against the Angels on Thursday. He struck out four. All five hits went for extra bases ― including a three-run homer from Shohei Ohtani, and a two-run shot from Albert Pujols. Aside from that, Yarbrough pitched quite well and needed an efficient 90 pitches (58 strikes, 64% strike rate) to complete six innings. Yarbrough’s form has been erratic lately; he’s allowed five or more earned runs three times in the last six starts while yielding two or fewer in the other three. He is 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 17 career innings against the Yankees.
J.A. Happ allowed four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out two through five innings in his last start. Happ looked solid until the fourth inning when he loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks ― it was the first time all season that Happ pitched with the bases loaded. Despite throwing nine straight balls, the 36-year-old managed to wiggle out of the jam without any damage. The White Sox got to Happ again in the fifth inning when the left-hander gave up a leadoff walk to Yolmer Sanchez, then allowed a single to Ryan Cordell and an RBI double to Leury Garcia. Tim Anderson followed with a three-run, 416-foot homer to even the score at four apiece. The long ball has proven to be Happ’s nemesis this season, and Thursday was no exception. He carries a 4.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and a 3.21 K/BB on the season, and is 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 16 career starts against Tampa Bay. He relies primarily on a whiffy 92 mph four-seam fastball and an 89 mph worm-killer sinker which has some natural sinking action, while also mixing in an 84 mph slider with little depth, and an 86 mph changeup with some natural sinking action. Key Matchups: Avisail Garcia (3-9, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Guillermo Heredia (2-7, BB)
Blake Snell allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks across 3-1/3 against the Angels on Friday. He struck out three. That start marked Snell’s shortest outing since May 1, although he was able to avoid a loss because the Rays offense scored nine runs against the Angels bullpen. Snell has been a little hot and cold of late, yielding just one run in three of his last seven starts, but more than three runs in under five frames in his other two. Overall, Snell is 4-5 with a 3.70 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 101 punch outs across 75-1/3 innings this season, and is 3-5 with a 3.97 ERA in 13 career starts against the Yankees (59.0 innings of work).
C.C. Sabathia coughed up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits and three walks while striking out three over 4-2/3 innings against the White Sox. Sabathia was tagged for four first-inning runs, including a three-run blast by Eloy Jimenez, and things went downhill from there. The left-hander had been taken deep at least once in nine straight starts, and as a result, he carries a 4.42 ERA and 2.38 K/BB through 57 into his next outing against Tampa Bay, on Wednesday. Over his career against the Rays, Sabathia is 17-16 with a 3.63 ERA and is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season ― although he averaged 5.5 IP in each of those starts. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (3-12, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Travis d’Arnaud (3-9, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (5-16, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Brandon Lowe (1-4, BB), Austin Meadows (1-4, BB), Joey Wendle (1-2), Mike Zunino (5-11, HR, RBI, BB)
― Update on RHP Jose Alvarado, who will immediately report to Port Charlotte: