Who doesn’t love a home run sky at the Trop? (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After sweeping the Marlins in a brief two-game series, the Tampa Bay Rays cap their six-game homestand when they welcome (note: welcome might not be the best word choice) the Bronx Bummers into the Trop for a four-game series starting Thursday. It was difficult, but the Yankees are coming off a series win against the Orioles.

At 26-17 on the season, the Rays enter play a season-high nine games over .500 and running 4.5 games behind the Yankees in second place in the division.

After a disastrous trip to Baltimore, the Rays needed to bounce back, and bounce back they did. On Tuesday, they defeated the Marlins, 4-0, on the back of three home runs. Then, on Wednesday, Tampa Bay struck early for five runs against a hurler with a 0.78 ERA and held on to eke out a 5-4 win. Yandy Diaz and Manuel Margot returned to the lineup, bolstering the offense. Wander Franco (two doubles, RBI, run), Randy Arozarena (double, 2 RBI, run), and Harold Ramirez (home run, 2 RBI, run) came up big in the series finale, although Miami’s bullpen poured cold water all over the Rays and prevented them from striking again.

Despite maintaining the best record in the American League, to say the Yankees had it easy against the Orioles would be a huge overstatement. New York dropped the first game of the series, almost lost the middle game of the set, then scored all of two runs on an error and a single in the series finale.

Tampa Bay’s offense continues to improve despite being faced with injuries, performing to a 132 wRC+ and a 4.9 wRAA over the last seven days. And while New York has six players with a +100 wRC+ (Aaron Judge 210, Anthony Rizzo 150, Giancarlo Stanton 148, Josh Donaldson 129, Gleyber Torres 113, and DJ LeMahieu 111), over the last week the team has performed to a combined 97 wRC+ and a -2.2 wRAA. What’s more, the Yankees went 3-4 over the last week. Should the Rays discount the team’s ability? Of course not — they are a dangerous ballclub. However, they can be pitched to, and they can be defeated.

The Rays went 11-8 versus the Yankees last season with a +48 run differential.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 4.20 ERA), Jeffrey Springs (2-1, 1.32 ERA), Corey Kluber (1-2, 4.42 ERA), and Shane McClanahan (4-2, 2.06 ERA). Aaron Boone will counter with Nester Cortes (3-1, 1.80 ERA), Jameson Taillon (4-1, 2.95 ERA), Gerrit Cole (4-1, 3.31 ERA), and Luis Severino (3-0, 3.02 ERA).

Ryan Yarbrough pitched out of the bulk role on Friday and allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks while striking out four on 56 pitches (43 strikes, 77% strike rate) across four innings. The left-hander worked behind opener Jalen Beeks during Friday’s matchup, yet Yarbrough held the Orioles in check as the primary pitcher. Yarbrough’s first three turns in 2022 came as a traditional starter, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return to that role in future outings, however, he is routinely better out of the bulk role. Overall, Yarbrough maintains a 4.20 ERA and 4.16 FIP, with a 1.67 WHIP, and a 1.71 K/BB across 15.0 innings on the season. Yarbs is 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA in nine career outings (one start) against the Yankees.

Nestor Cortes tossed five innings, surrendering three runs on six hits while striking out seven against the White Sox on Saturday. Cortes gave up a two-out, three-run homer to Jose Abreu in the top of the third, accounting for all the damage against him. After issuing eight walks over his previous two turns, Cortes has now produced back-to-back outings without a free pass. He owns a masterful 1.80 ERA and 2.59 FIP, with a 0.89 WHIP, and 5.09 K/BB with 56 strikeouts over 45 innings on the season. Cortes relies primarily on a whiffy 91 mph four-seam fastball and an 86 mph cutter with sweeping cut action, while also mixing in a 77 mph slider that sweeps across the zone. The southpaw is 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA across seven career outings (two starts) against the Rays. Key Matchups: Wander Franco (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (3-6, 3B, 3 RBI, BB), Francisco Mejia (2-4)

Jeffrey Springs tossed 5.2 scoreless innings against Baltimore on Saturday, allowing one hit and four walks while striking out seven. Springs tossed a season-high 5.2 frames and he completed his second straight scoreless outing despite walking more batters in the contest (four) than he had across his first 11 appearances combined. His seven strikeouts were also his most of the campaign thus far, and he got there on the strength of 16 swinging strikes. Springs is building up his pitch count now that he is part of the rotation — Saturday was the first time he has reached 80 pitches this season. Overall, Springs maintains a 1.32 ERA and 2.39 FIP, with a 0.80 WHIP, and a 3.86 K/BB across 27.1 innings on the season. He is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in eight career outings against New York.

Jameson Taillon allowed one run on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts across seven innings on Sunday. Taillon had his best stuff working, limiting the damage to one run on three hits in the fourth inning, and he responded by retiring the next 10 White Sox. The 94 pitches and seven strikeouts both represent season highs. Overall, Taillon maintains a 2.95 ERA and 3.24 FIP, with a 1.15 WHIP, and a 6.80 K/BB across 42.2 innings on the season. He relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball and an 86 mph slider, while also mixing in an 81 mph worm-killer curveball that has sharp downward bite, a 90 mph cutter with good “rise” and strong cutting action, a 94 mph sinker, and a firm 88 mph changeup that has slight arm-side fade. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Yandy Diaz (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Wander Franco (1-2), Kevin Kiermaier (2-2, 2B, BB)

Corey Kluber allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out two across three innings on Sunday against the Orioles. Although Kluber held Baltimore to just two runs early in Sunday’s matchup, he was pulled after throwing 73 pitches over three innings. The right-hander has recorded quality starts in three of his last five outings, although he has also been pulled after three innings in two of his last three starts. Overall, Kluber maintains a 4.42 ERA and 3.82 FIP, with a 1.29 WHIP, and a 4.63 K/BB across 38.2 innings on the season. The right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.51 ERA across eight career starts against the Yankees.

Gerrit Cole allowed five runs on seven hits over eight innings on Monday against the Orioles, striking out 11. Cole turned in an ugly final line but was mostly his usual self outside of Baltimore’s four-run third inning headlined by Austin Hays’ two-run single. The right-hander later coughed up a solo shot to Ramon Urias in the sixth. While his ERA jumped from 2.81 to 3.31, Cole improved his season K/BB to an impressive 5.17 through 51.2 frames, including a 17.5 K/BB over his last four turns. He relies primarily on a 98 mph four-seam fastball that has arm-side run and has some added backspin, while also mixing in an 88 mph slider that has some two-plane movement, a whiffy 92 mph cutter that has some natural sink, a hard 90 mph changeup, and an 83 mph curveball that has sharp downward bite. The Rays have had the right-hander’s number over his career with him going 1-6 with a 4.46 ERA across 11 starts. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (8-14, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB), Yandy Diaz (10-24, 2B, HR, 5 RBI), Harold Ramirez (2-2, 4 RBI)

Shane McClanahan got the start Monday against the Marlins and tossed six shutout frames, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out nine. He threw 64 of 96 pitches for strikes (67% strike rate). That being said, McClanahan did face a few challenges in his outing.

After allowing a one-out hit in the second, he collected a pair of punchouts (Jesus Sanchez looking, Erik Gonzalez swinging) to get out of the threat.

McClanahan also coaxed a pair of double plays; one after a one-out hit in the third, and the other in the sixth. After allowing two base hits, the left-hander got Jorge Soler to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play. He is 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.

Luis Severino struck out five across seven shutout innings while allowing eight hits and hitting two batters on Sunday against the White Sox. Despite allowing 10 baserunners, Severino held the South Sider scoreless by getting out of a number of jams, including loading the bases with no outs in the fifth. It was his longest outing since 2018 and the fourth consecutive start where he’s thrown more than 90 pitches. Overall, Severino maintains a 3.02 ERA and 3.66 FIP, with a 1.18 WHIP, and a 3.91 K/BB across 41.2 innings on the season. He relies primarily on a 97 mph four-seam fastball, a 90 mph changeup, and an 86 mph slider that has short glove-side cut, while also mixing in a whiffy 92 mph cutter. Across his career, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.11 ERA across 14 outings (10 starts) against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (2-4, BB), Mike Zunino (1-4, 2B, BB)