Marshall Applewhite, take me away. (Photo Credit: X-Rays Spex)

After sweeping the Pirates in three, the Tampa Bay Rays welcome the Bronx Bummers into the Trop for a three-game series, starting Friday. The Yankees most recently took two of three from the Guardians.

At 26-6 on the season, the Rays enter play 20 games over .500, and in first place in the division. The Yankees? Not so much.

The Rays have only lost two series all season and have the best record in baseball. They won three of four against the White Sox last weekend and recorded the sweep against the Pirates this week. While they had an easy schedule in April and May poses a bigger challenge, Tampa Bay met the challenge this week against Pittsburgh.

They continue to lead in several hitting categories and are scoring an average of 6.56 runs per game. The pitching staff, despite injuries aplenty, sports a combined 2.96 team ERA and a 3.56 FIP which is also number one.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are averaging just 3.94 runs per game overall, ranking them 24th in baseball. Why the lag in production? New York is dealing with injuries including Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, both of which are on the shelf. Because of it, the Yankees have scored four runs or fewer in nine of their last ten games.

Credit where it’s due, the pitching staff maintains a respectable 3.54 team ERA and a 3.94 FIP, placing them seventh.

The Rays went 8-11 against the Yankees last season, with all of the games being fairly close — Tampa Bay was outscored by just six runs.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Yonny Chirinos (1-0, 0.64 ERA, 2.86 FIP), Drew Rasmussen (3-2, 3.66 ERA, 2.98 FIP), and likely Josh Fleming (0-0, 3.18 ERA, 3.31 FIP). Aaron Boone will counter with Jhony Brito (2-3, 5.56 ERA, 4.46 FIP), Domingo German (2-2, 4.46 ERA, 4.70 ERA), and Gerrit Cole (5-0, 1.35 ERA, 2.16 ERA).

Yonny Chirinos allowed one run on three hits while striking out three over 4.2 innings against the White Sox on Saturday. Chirinos picked up his first win of the season as the Rays’ bulk pitcher. He also allowed his first run of the season thanks to a couple of Chicago doubles in the sixth, yet the Rays exploded for 10 runs in the seventh to put him in line for the win. Chirinos has made four multi-inning relief appearances this season and sports a 0.64 ERA and a 2.86 FIP, with a 0.00 K/BB, and 0.57 WHIP. He is 2-3 with a 3.57 ERA in eight outings (five starts) against the Yankees.

Jhony Brito allowed two runs on four hits and one walk over five innings against Texas on Saturday. He struck out five. After three consecutive starts without reaching five innings, Brito delivered a solid outing Saturday. The five strikeouts were the most the rookie has recorded since his first start of the season. Brito now maintains a 5.56 ERA and a 4.46 FIP across 22.2 innings this season, with a 0.00 K/BB, and a 0.00 WHIP. He relies primarily on a hard 88 mph changeup that has obvious arm-side fade, a blazing 96 mph sinker, and a 96 mph fourseam fastball that has some natural sinking action and arm-side run, while also mixing in an 80 mph slider that has exceptional depth and short glove-side cut. German is 3-2 with a 5.64 ERA in 11 outings (nine starts) against the Rays.

Drew Rasmussen allowed three runs on nine hits while striking out three over five innings against the White Sox on Sunday. He did not walk a batter. The White Sox got to Rasmussen in the opening frame with a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly. He faced little resistance from then on until the sixth inning, during which he allowed a leadoff base hit before Yasmani Grandal sent one over the wall in center to put the Sox ahead by a run. Rasmussen’s day concluded abruptly following the long ball. It was just the second homer he’s allowed this season, although he’s been knocked around quite a bit — allowing at least eight hits in three of his last four outings while failing to surpass five innings. The right-hander has been hit or miss in six starts this season and now owns a 3.66 ERA and a 2.98 FIP, with a 1.28 WHIP, and a 3.78 K/BB over 32 innings. Rasmussen is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two outings (one start) against the Yankees.

Domingo German allowed one run on two hits and one walk over 8.1 innings against the Guardians on Monday. He struck out six. After a one-out single by Amed Rosario in the first inning, German retired 11 consecutive batters before walking Josh Bell to begin the fifth. Following the walk, the right-hander buckled down and recorded 13 straight outs before Steven Kwan singled with one out in the ninth. German, who had thrown 88 pitches (65 strikes, 74% strike rate), was pulled following the base hit. It was the first time this season German took a game into the ninth inning and the fifth time he’s recorded at least six strikeouts. His 4.46 ERA and 4.70 FIP still need work, but his 0.90 WHIP and 3.90 K/BB through 34.1 innings suggest he could be on the right track. He relies primarily on an 83 mph curveball and a 93 mph fourseam fastball, while also mixing in an 86 mph changeup, and a 93 mph sinker. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (3-11, HR, RBI), Christian Bethancourt (1-3, HR, 2 RBI), Yandy Díaz (5-16, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Manuel Margot (1-4), Francisco Mejía (2-4, 2 RBI, BB), José Siri (1-1, 2B, BB)

Josh Fleming allowed one run on two hits and three walks with a strikeout before exiting the ballgame after 3.2 innings of work. He was pulled from the game earlier than expected after he took a 113.1 MPH comebacker, from Ke’Bryan Hayes, off his foot. X-Rays on the injury came back negative. He was unable to continue after throwing a couple of warmup pitches.

It’s not as swollen as I thought it was going to be. It missed the ankle, which is a good thing, but it hurts a little bit. The minute it hit me, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not good.’ I had a feeling I was going to get taken out. I was trying to stay in as much as I could, but [I] just didn’t have any sort of push-off when I threw those last two pitches.

— Josh Fleming

Overall, Fleming maintains a 3.18 ERA and a 3.31 FIP, with a 1.32 WHIP, and a 1.56 K/BB over 22.2 innings. The left-hander is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three career outings against the Yankees.

Gerrit Cole surrendered two runs on five hits and three walks over six innings against the Guardians. He struck out eight. The right-hander fired 69 of 108 pitches for strikes (64% strike rate) and generated 32 called or swinging strikes en route to his sixth quality start in seven outings this season. He missed the seventh inning by only one out. He maintains a 1.35 ERA and a 2.12 FIP, with a 0.90 WHIP, and 3.71 K/BB through 46.2 innings on the season. Cole relies primarily on a 97 mph fourseam fastball that has slight arm-side run, while also mixing in a hard 89 mph slider with two plane movement, an 83 mph curveball with sharp downward bite, and an 88 mph changeup that has arm-side fade. He is 2-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 15 career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (7-28, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Yandy Díaz (12-42, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Francisco Mejía (2-6), Isaac Paredes (2-8, RBI), Harold Ramírez (3-5, 4 RBI)

The Music That Influenced This Preview

The year is 2013. Both COMBATWOUNDEDVETERAN and Holy Mountain are no more. Dan Shook, a member of the aforementioned bands, is currently the singer of Primate Research and the fledgling Meatwound, and Troi — who played with Shook in Holy Mountain — put together a short-lived crust project called Headless Dogs. They released a Record Store Day LP in 2013, and the five rippers from that slab of vinyl are finally available for your digital consumption. If you like bands like His Hero Is Gone and Tragedy, plunk down $4.00 for this ripper.