After sweeping the Red Sox, and winning eight of the last nine ball games, the Tampa Bay Rays depart for the Bronx, where they will start an impactful three-game set against the Yankees on Friday. New York is coming off a series win against the Twins.
At 77-58 on the season, the Rays enter play a season-high 19 games over .500, and in control of their own destiny, maintaining the top American League Wildcard spot by 1.5 games.
Tampa Bay’s pitching staff came up huge against Boston, limiting the mightily productive Red Sox to just seven total runs for an average of 2.33 runs per game. They were great on the bump in August, and the Rays are continuing that in September, pitching to a combined 1.67 ERA and 3.26 FIP (3.64 xFIP) across 54.0 innings, with a 3.17 K/BB, and a 0.94 WHIP. Meanwhile, the offense has continued its productive ways, slashing .265 BA/.332 OBP/.407 SLG/.739 OPS, with a 118 wRC+, and a 2.4 wRAA.
A reinforcement is on the way.
After going 3-5 with a double and two runs scored in a nine-inning rehab appearance with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday night, president of baseball operations Erik Neander said Wander Franco is ready to return to the Majors and has been activated ahead of the series opener at Yankee Stadium. The team will had to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, so Yu Chang, who performed to a 101 wRC+ in the second half (as compared to Ji-Man Choi, who put up a 19 wRC+ over the same stretch), drew the short stick and was designated for assignment.
While the Yankees rattled off a series win against Minnesota after salvaging Sunday’s contest at the Trop, they are still mired in a lukewarm stretch of play, slashing .184 BA/.278 OBP/.342 SLG/.629 OPS, with an 82 wRC+, and a -6.8 wRAA. Yes, they are still in first place. Yes, they have a potentially potent offense — just don’t pitch to Aaron Judge, fellas, okay? — but, as Taylor Walls once said, the Yankees are a “very beatable” team.
Tampa Bay enters the series 7-9 against the Yankees this season. Given New York’s loss in the series finale of their previous series, and that the Rays start this set 4.5 games out of first in the division, Tampa Bay could head up to the great white north anywhere between 1.5 and 7.5 games back of first.
Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will likely hand the ball to Drew Rasmussen (9-4, 2.70 ERA), Corey Kluber (10-7, 4.00 ERA), and Ryan Yarbrough (1-8, 4.69 ERA) in some capacity. Aaron Boone will counter with Frankie Montas (5-11, 3.79 ERA), Jameson Taillon (12-4, 3.95 ERA), and a pitcher to be named before the series finale.
Drew Rasmussen allowed one run on four hits over six innings against the Marlins. He struck out four without walking a batter. The right-hander battled Trevor Rogers for five scoreless frames before Jon Berti hit a solo shot to left-centerfield in the sixth. The Rays got Rasmussen off the hook for a loss right away with a run in the top of the seventh inning. Rasmussen delivered his sixth quality start of the season, and since the All-Star Break, he’s rattled off eight consecutive outings of two earned runs or less — a stretch in which Rasmussen boasts a 1.84 ERA and a 2.39 FIP, with an 0.86 WHIP, and 6.83 K/BB through 44 innings. Rasmussen has not faced the Yankees this season.
Frankie Montas struck out seven over five scoreless frames. He allowed one hit and did not walk a batter. Montas logged his first scoreless start since joining the Yankees on August 2 with five shutout innings against Tampa bay. He also allowed one hit for just the second time this year and did not walk a batter for the second start in a row. He has allowed just one run to the Rays in three starts this season. Montas maintains a 3.79 ERA and a 3.62 FIP, with a 1.17 WHIP, and 3.89 K/BB through 135.1 innings. Key Matchups: Brandon Lowe (4-15, HR, 2 RBI), Francisco Mejía (2-5, 2B), Harold Ramírez (2-4, RBI)
Corey Kluber allowed no runs on two hits while striking out four and walking none over seven innings against the Yankees on Saturday. It was a vintage Kluber performance, as he limited the Yankees’ offense to just two hits, and tossed 62 of 88 pitches for strikes (70% strike rate) across seven frames. Kluber now has three consecutive wins in his last three turns and is on a streak of four quality starts. He has five quality starts in his last six games, with the exception being a seven-run clunker against the Orioles. After that game spiked his ERA to 4.40, Kluber pitched well and his ERA now sits at 4.00, with a 3.61 FIP, a 6.78 K/BB, and a 1.12 WHIP across 141.2 frames. He is 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this season.
Jameson Taillon allowed two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three batters against the Twins on Monday. Taillon departed his previous start early as a result of taking a line drive to his right forearm, although he didn’t need to miss a turn in the rotation. The right-hander threw 83 strikes Monday and allowed just one extra-base hit, but that was a fifth-inning two-run homer by Gary Sanchez. Taillon has given up at least one homer in each of his six starts since August 8, but he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of those turns. Overall, he’s posted a 3.95 ERA and a 4.13 FIP, with a 1.14 WHIP, and 4.62 K/BB over 145.2 innings on the season. In one outing against the Rays this season, Taillon has allowed no runs on two hits across eight innings with five strikeouts. Key Matchups: Yandy Díaz (2-7, 2B, 2 RBI, BB), Brandon Lowe (2-7, 2B, BB), David Peralta (1-3, HR, 2 RBI)
Ryan Yarbrough allowed no runs on three hits and two walks across 2.2 innings on Sunday, striking out one. As with his last two outings, Yarbrough will likely pitch behind an opener on Sunday. It was a nice bounce-back outing after he surrendered five runs on eight hits over 3.1 innings against the Red Sox. He now maintains a 4.69 ERA and a 4.48 FIP, with a 1.39 WHIP, and a 2.75 K/BB across 71.0 innings on the season. The left-hander has allowed just two runs on eight hits across 12 innings against the Yankees this season.