The top two teams in the AL East are set to open up a three-game weekend series at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays face the New York Yankees for the first time this season, starting Friday night. Tampa Bay took two-of-three from Arizona, although they missed an opportunity to sweep the Diamondbacks when they fell 3-2 in 13 innings on Wednesday. The Yankees took three-of-four from the Mariners.
The Rays were handed just their second defeat in the last six games, finishing their marathon 13-inning contest with eight hits and a whopping 23 strikeouts. Tommy Pham was the only player with two hits in the ballgame, while Tampa Bay went 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Still, the Rays averaged 6.67 runs per game over the life of the series, while the pitching staff allowed seven runs total over the previous three days.
Outfielder Austin Meadows (thumb sprain) is expected to be activated from the Injured List and back in the lineup on Friday. Prior to the injury, Meadows was hitting .351 with six home runs, 19 RBI and a fantastic 1.097 OPS. To create space on the 25-man roster, the Rays optioned rookie 1B/DH Nate Lowe, who hit .257 with one RBI across nine games, back to Triple-A Durham.
However, the team is still sorting out the catching situation, with the potential for Mike Zunino to be placed on the IL after he left Wednesday’s game due to quad tightness.
If Zunino is out for an extended amount of time, Tampa Bay will have to make another roster move, with Anthony Bemboom the most likely candidate for promotion — a move that would leave them with a very inexperienced duo of backstops; he and Nick Ciuffo. The 29-year-old Bemboom signed as a minor-league free agent this past offseason after he spent 2-1/2 seasons at Triple-A with the Rockies and Angels organizations. He has no big league experience.
New York won the season series last season, 10-9, but Tampa Bay won six of the 10 meetings at Tropicana Field.
Over the next three days Kevin Cash will lean on Tyler Glasnow (6-0, 1.47 ERA), Yonny Chirinos (4-1, 3.52 ERA) — pitching in the bulk inning role — and Blake Snell (3-3, 3.62 ERA). Aaron Boone will counter with Domingo German (6-1, 2.35 ERA), CC Sabathia (2-1, 3.20 ERA), and Masahiro Tanaka (2-3, 3.77 ERA).
Tyler Glasnow allowed just three hits while striking out eight batters across seven scoreless innings against the Orioles. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning en route to his sixth win of the season. Glasnow is undefeated with a pristine 1.47 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 6.57 K/BB across seven starts this season.
Domingo German allowed one run on four hits and three walks while striking out seven over 6-2/3 innings against the Twin. German worked around seven base runners thanks in part to 21 called strikes. The right-hander has been great this season, and his 2.72 FIP suggests that his 2.35 ERA could stick. German relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball with slight arm side run and a whiffy 82 mph 12-6 curveball, while also mixing in a firm 88 mph worm-killer changeup and a 94 mph sinker with obvious tail. He is 1-0 with a 7.36 ERA in three games (two starts) against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (1-3, 3B), Brandon Lowe (1-1)
Yonny Chirinos took a hard-luck loss against Baltimore on Saturday, allowing three runs on seven hits across 7-1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one. Chirinos was used as a traditional starter and ended up delivering a quality start for the Rays. The right-hander has pitched well with a 3.52 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 4.14 K/BB over 38-1/3 innings, with most of his damage coming in one outing in which he allowed six runs over 2-1/3 innings (April 12).
CC Sabathia gave up three earned runs on five hits over five innings while striking out five and walking three against the Mariners. The swarthy southpaw wasn’t particularly efficient, needing 99 pitches to make it through five innings, yet he was able to pick up his second victory of the season thanks to a lot of early run support. Sabathia has posted solid ratios over his five 2019 starts, performing to a 3.20 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP across 25-1/3 innings. Sabathia relies primarily on an 89 mph cutter with strong cutting action and an 80 mph sweeping slider, while also mixing in an 89 mph sinker, and a whiffy 83 mph worm-killer changeup. Sabathia is 17-16 with a 3.67 ERA in 48 career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-8, RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (5-16, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Mike Zunino (5-11, HR, RBI, BB)
Blake Snell bounced back from a pair of tough outings and cruised to his third win of the season. Snell gave up just one hit and no walks while striking out nine across six scoreless innings. The southpaw induced 19 swinging strikes (61 strikes overall, a 71% strike rate and a 31% SwStr%) on 86 total pitches. It was a phenomenal performance by Snell, who posted a 12.79 ERA in his first two starts since returning from the IL because of a fractured toe. He is now 3-3 on the season with a respectable 3.62 ERA and 5.56 K/BB over seven starts this season.
Masahiro Tanaka gave up two earned runs on five hits over 6-1/3 innings on Tuesday against the Mariners. He struck out four and walked two. Tanaka struggled in his previous two starts, but he was sharp against Seattle. The right-hander carries a 3.64 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with a 2.86 K/BB across 45-1/3 innings. He relies primarily on an 84 mph slider with glove-side cut and two-plane movement, a whiffy 92 mph four-seam fastball, and a firm 88 mph splitter with arm side fade. Tanaka is 8-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 14 career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (2-7, 2B, RBI), Avisail Garcia (4-13, 2B, RBI), Guillermo Heredia (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (7-23, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (2-4, 2B), Tommy Pham (3-5, 2B, HR, 2 BB), Daniel Robertson (1-4, 2B, BB), Mike Zunino (5-16, 2 2B, HR, RBI)