The Yankees and Rays start a three game series tomorrow, their second against each other this year and first since Opening Week when the Rays swept the Yankees out of the Trop. The Rays will be a bit lighter for this series, as Evan Longoria is out with a hamstring injury he got while sliding into second base on a steal attempt.
(Stats accurate as of Sunday at noon)
The Rays come into this game with a solid offensive attack, ranking no lower than 5th in the AL in home runs (4th), runs (5th), OBP (4th), SLG (5th), and OPS (4th). Losing Longoria, who was leading the team in AVG/OBP/OPS/OPS+/wOBA/wRC+, will obviously hurt, but the Rays still have a few weapons to turn to. Matt Joyce is hitting the ball well at .271/.367/.588 (.407 wOBA, 169 wRC+). Carlos Pena is riding a (typical) .200 Iso and a 16.3% walk rate to a wOBA/wRC+ of .379/149. Everyone’s least favorite player, Luke Scott, isn’t walking much (5.6%) or hitting for a high average (.256), but when he’s hitting the ball, he’s making it count with a .293 Iso, leading to a .549 SLG and a .355/132 wOBA/wRC+ mark. One thing these three all have in common is that they’re left-handed hitters. Lucky for them, they’ll be facing two righties (Ivan Nova and David Phelps) in this series.
On the pitching side of things, the Rays rank 5th in the AL in ERA, 6th in FIP (one spot ahead of the Yankees), third in strikeout percentage (one spot behind the Yankees), 11th in walk rate, and 9th in HR/FB%. The three pitchers the Yankees will face this week–James Shields, Jeff Niemann, and David Price–are all doing well in the early season. Among pitchers with at least 20 innings, the trio is 16-18th in strikeout percentage. Predictably, Price has been the best, notching the best ERA (2.35) and FIP (2.49) of the three.
Aside from Nova (G1 v. Shields) and Phelps (G2 vs. Neimann), the Yankees will send CC Sabathia to the mound to counter Price in the series finale. Considering what Shields normally does to the Yankees, and how Nova has been getting knocked around a bit, game two with Phelps v. Neimann will be the key to this series. With the two best starters on each team going Thursday, we could be in for a battle of the bullpens there.
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