The Rays come back to Yankee Stadium for a three-gamer this weekend, and while a set against the Rays is always fun, this one will lack a lot of the excitement that last year’s pennant race had, as the Rays are effectively out of the playoff hunt. Of course, they’re no doubt looking to play spoiler to whatever degree possible, and they’ll surely be their usual pesky selves.
Unfortunately for the Rays, the offense just hasn’t been there this season — at least, compared with last year — with a team wOBA of .315 that ranks 8th in the AL (though their league-average wRC+ of 100 is 5th-best). The offense has been led by another monster season from Ben Zobrist (141 wRC+), who always seems to kill the Yankees (career .274/.374/.436), a shockingly resurgent Casey Kotchman (145 wRC+) and a Matt Joyce (133 wRC+) who appears to be back on fire after a two-month slump. The Yankees will also get their first-ever look at newly installed leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings, who’s torn the cover off the ball across his first 80-plus MLB plate appearances (188 wRC+). As always, Evan Longoria (118 wRC+) will hurt you, but he hasn’t quite hit to the level he’s capable of, while the remainder of the Rays’ lineup features below-average hitters (though in fairness, B.J. Upton‘s at a 99 wRC+ and Johnny Damon a 98 wRC+).
The Rays’ pitching staff has been strong ERA-wise (3.72 ERA), but middle-of-the-pack peripherally (4.05 FIP). Despite a career-high K/9 and career-low BB/9, lefthanded ace David Price has seen his HR/9 nearly double from a year ago, leaving him with an ERA over a full run higher than last season, but the exact same FIP (3.42). James Shields has of course had one of the better bounceback seasons in years, while Jeff Niemann has seemingly blossomed into a seriious #2/#3-type starter and Jeremy Hellickson has turned in an admirable rookie campaign, though the gaudy ERA (3.05 ERA) is at least partially fueled by the lowest BABIP in Major League Baseball (.225). With a below-average K/9, it would seem like Hellickson’s luck is due to run out soon.
The bullpen has been one of the less-effective units in the AL (10th in both ERA and FIP, 2nd-to-last in xFIP), though, much to the chagrin of Yankee fans everywhere, closer Kyle Farnsworth hasn’t been part of the problem, with a sterling 2.00 ERA/2.64 FIP. Three of the seven men currently listed in Tampa’s bullpen — J.P. Howell, Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee — have combined for -1.0 fWAR.
The Pitching Match-Ups
In tonight’s game, fans of great pitching are in for a treat, as we get another CC Sabathia-David Price showdown. Both lefthanders boast similar repertoires (blazing four-seamers, sliders and changeups), though Price’s secondary fastball is a two-seamer instead of a sinker. Price will also drop a curveball in from time to time; something we don’t see too often from CC. The Yankees have rather surprisingly managed to score a fair amount of runs off Price this season (11 in 17.1 innings), and Price is winless in all three of his starts against the Bombers. Sabathia has eaten the Rays alive this year, posting his lone complete-game shutout of the season against them on July 10 and tossing another eight innings of two-run ball a week-and-a-half later.
In a rare FOX Saturday Afternoon Game of Death not taking place at Fenway, Phil Hughes will look to build on his strong start against the White Sox as he takes on Jeremy Hellickson. Hellboy’s coming off a stretch of 7 earned runs over his last 26.1 innings (including two runs over seven against the Yanks last month), and this difficult pitching match-up should help the Yankees see what the 2011 version of Hughes is really made of.
The Sunday afternoon finale sees Freddy Garcia taking on James Shields. Freddy has been the Yankees’ second-most valuable pitcher, and was able to hold the Rays scoreless over 6 2/3 innings last time out. Unfortunately he’ll be facing James Shields, who, along with Josh Beckett and Felix Hernandez, has been virtually unhittable when facing the Yankees this season. Shields has thrown 22.2 innings of four-run ball against the Yankees in 2011, which for those of you keeping track at home works out to a 1.59 ERA. Felix has a 3.21 ERA against the Bombers this season, but his ownage can’t be disputed; while Beckett’s been the most impressive of any pitcher who has faced the Yankees this season, allowing a mere three runs in 27 innings, good for a 1.00 ERA.
This could be a tricky series for the Yankees. Tampa essentially has its three best pitchers going, while the Yankees have their best, one who’s pitched quite well and also seems to excel against mediocre offenses, and one who is almost as enigmatic as A.J. Burnett on a game-by-game basis. The Yankees also have several very hot bats in the lineup, with Curtis Granderson (194 wRC+), Robinson Cano (224 wRC+), Nick Swisher (156 wRC+) and Mark Teixeira (140 wRC+) all raking over the last two weeks. If the Yankees can finally break through against Big Game James, then they should win this series, but if he continues to stifle them, it could be a long weekend.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- Joey Parkhill on Dante Bichette Jr’s Swing
- lululemon factory outlet on Contact Us
- Cary on Will R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball Succeed In A Domed Stadium?
- Brenna on Links: Prospects, Support for A-Rod, Mariano is Love and Who’s in Center?
- Louis Vuitton Outlet Sale Singapore on The Monthly Prospector: April Edition
- Authentic Louis Vuitton Outlet Store on The Monthly Prospector: June Edition
- Louis Vuitton Outlet San Diego on Banuelos to Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Yankees Prospectors to Undergo Grief Counseling
- related web site on The Great Subway Race
- get your lover back on Contact Us
- Dorothy Silvan on Pineda’s Torn Labrum, or Does the lemon law apply to baseball?
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees