After salvaging a 4-3 win in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, and a 5-2 road series overall, the Tampa Bay Rays return home to the friendly confines of Tropicana Field, where they will start a three-game series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. The Yankees, who are embarking on their longest road trip of the season, are coming off a series win against the Nationals.
The Rays are coming off a tough stretch of play in which they played 30 games in 31 days. Tampa Bay is 14-9 over a 23 game stretch having played the Angels four times, the Astros three times, the Athletics seven times, the Blue Jays three times, the Royals three times, and the Yankees three times in what is the toughest part of their 2021 campaign. In so doing, they posted a .609 WP%. On top of that, they’ve played 26 games against +.500 teams. , They fared well considering the sheer number of players on the shelf, winning 17 of 30.
The schedule will get easier for the Rays as the season progresses, especially after June. However, in the short-term, they will have their hands full this week against the Yankees — who are playing some of their best baseball of the year, having gone 13-6 over their last 19 games — and the Mets.
Tampa Bay has been better over the last couple of weeks, although they are still getting BABIP’d which is affecting their ability to get those crucial hits when they need them the most. Of note, they went just 4-for-2o wRISP against the Athletics this weekend past. Then again, if you’re the Yankees, you’d likely say that’s not an excuse. After all, their BABIP over the same stretch of play is just two points higher than the Rays, yet they are outperforming Tampa Bay by 31% as it relates to wRC+.
In all fairness though, they are outscoring the Rays by a whopping .93 runs per game (again, over that stretch), so it’s not like they are a house on fire. Still, they are as healthy as they’ve been all season, and they expect to have Luke Voit back this week. For their part, the Rays should be getting Ji-Man Choi, Michael Wacha, and Diego Castillo back from the Injured List.
The Rays are 5-1 against the Yankees this season and 2-1 versus them at the Trop.
Kevin Cash has only named one starter for the series, Luis Patiño (1-0, 1.17 ERA), who will pitch in the series opener and will likely be followed by Ryan Yarbrough (2-3, 4.58 ERA), a hurler to be named before Wednesday’s contest, and Rich Hill (1-1, 5.17 ERA). I will update this piece as the week progresses to reflect any changes. Aaron Boone will counter with Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.41 ERA), Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.61 ERA), and Jameson Taillon (1-2, 5.02 ERA).
Luis Patiño fired two scoreless innings on Thursday, allowing one hit while recording two strikeouts. The right-hander has gotten his Rays tenure off to a nearly unblemished start, with Patino allowing just one hit and a walk over 4-2/3 innings across two appearances, the first coming as the opener against the Blue Jays.
Ryan Yarbrough pitched four innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Wednesday, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out three. Yarbrough worked as the bulk guy in the contest, entering the game in the third inning following a pair of scoreless frames by opener Andrew Kittredge. Yarbrough tossed 65 pitches (40 strikes, 62% strike rate) in his four innings and limited Los Angeles to a lone third-inning run. He carries a 4.58 ERA and 3.63 K/BB on the season and is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in one outing against the Yankees this season.
Jordan Montgomery allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out four over six innings against Houston on Wednesday. Montgomery was fairly solid throughout the start, except in the fourth inning when he surrendered five of his eight hits. The left-hander avoided issuing a walk for the first time since April 5. He currently owns a 4.41 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and a 3.5 K/BB across 32-2/3 innings this season. Montgomery is 1-3 with a 5.63 ERA in his career against the Rays, and 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA in one start against Tampa Bay this season. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (2-7, 2 HR, 4 RBI), Mike Brosseau (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Yandy Díaz (2-7, 2 RBI, BB), Manuel Margot (3-6, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Austin Meadows (2-5, BB), Mike Zunino (1-2, HR, 2RBI)
Gerrit Cole allowed two earned runs on five hits and no walks while striking out four across seven innings Thursday against the Astros. Cole allowed two solo home runs but otherwise held Houston without an extra-base hit. It was something of a down performance inasmuch that Cole only struck out four, although the rest of his line was still typically strong. For the season, Cole has a 1.61 ERA with a sensational 22.0 K/BB across 44-2/3 innings. Even so, he is 0-4 with a 3.91 ERA in eight career starts against the Rays, and most recently allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits across 6-1/3 innings against them on April 15. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (8-12, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB), Yandy Díaz (6-15, HR, 2 RBI), Brett Phillips (1-1), Yoshi Tsutsugo (1-4, 2B, RBI), Joey Wendle (4-13, 3B, 3 RBI)
Rich Hill got off to an inauspicious start in his last outing, gifting Oakland’s leadoff batters a free base in each of the first three frames — either by way of a walk or hit-by-pitch. Because of it, Hill worked almost exclusively out of the stretch in those early innings. Yet, the left-hander got into a groove and allowed just one batter to reach base across his final three innings, ending his outing by retiring seven in a row. All told, the left-hander allowed two singles and two walks while striking out four. After performing to an unsightly 8.82 ERA through his first four turns, Hill has allowed only two earned runs across 15 innings (three appearances). He enters his next start with a 5.17 ERA/4.36 FIP and a 3.20 K/BB on the season.
Jameson Taillon allowed three runs on three hits and a walk while striking out five across 6-1/3 innings on Friday against the Nationals. Taillon surrendered all three runs on a pair of homers in the top of the second inning. The right-hander now has a 5.02 ERA and 5.67 K/BB in 28-2/3 innings across his first six starts of the season. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one career start against Tampa Bay. Taillon relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball, an 88 mph slider, and an 81 mph curveball. Key Matchup: Brett Phillips (1-4, 2B, RBI)
— The Rays have announced that they have designated Yoshi Tsutsugo for assignment. Additionally, they have recalled Kevin Padlo from Durham with a southpaw on the mound in the series opener against New York.
Tsutsugo managed a .167 BA/.244 OBP/.288 SLG/.532 OPS line with four doubles and five RBI across 26 games. Rays General Manager Erik Neander The Rays Erik Neander said Tsutsugo was professional and gracious in how he took the news. He has an opportunity to go to Triple-A Durham should he choose, although he can also become a free agent.
Padlo, who will get the start at third base in the series opener, hit four home runs in the Bulls’ opening series.
— LHP Ryan Sherriff was reinstated from the restricted list and optioned to Durham, filling the 40-man spot vacated by Tsutsugo.