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Series Preview: Rays visit Yankee Stadium.

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Rays look to quiet Gary Sanchez.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Rays take on the Yankees for a four game set. The Yankees come off a sweep of the Blue Jays to stay on the fringes of being a real contender for a playoff spot despite trading away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova at the deadline. The Yankees are 21-13 since the trade deadline.

The Matchups:

Thursday: Alex Cobb vs C.C. Sabathia

Friday: Blake Snell vs Michael Pineda

Saturday: Chris Archer vs Masahiro Tanaka

Sunday: Matt Andriese vs Luis Cessa

Tanaka faces off against Archer in a battle of aces.

The series kicks off with C.C. Sabathia facing off agianst Alex Cobb. Sabathia is having his best season in four years. A 4.20 ERA and 4.22 FIP isn’t what you would expect from the one time dominant starting pitcher, but it’s better than the 4.73+ ERA he’s put up in each of the last three seasons. He’s stayed relatively healthy as he’s made 25 starts totaling 150 innings (6 innings per start). His walks are up to 8.7%, but he’s managed to keep the ball in the park as he’s only allowed an 11.0% HR/FB rate. That would be his lowest rate since 2011.

Michael Pineda has always been an enigma as he’s always picked up strike outs and limited walks, but his ERA has always been well above his FIP. This year it’s been a much bigger problem as he’s posted a 5.10 ERA and 3.72 FIP. His 26.3% strikeout rate and 6.3% walk rates are both good, but he’s allowed an inflated 16.2% HR/FB rate. His 68.3% left on base rate would scream regression, but he’s been under 70% in three of his four major league seasons.

Masahiro Tanaka takes on Chris Archer in a marquise pitching matchup. Tanaka has remained healthy this year and put up a 3.11 ERA and 3.26 FIP over 179.1 innings in 28 starts. Tanaka goes about it differently than your standard ace as he relies on a low walk rate and weak contact to put up his numbers. His 10.4% HR/FB would be his lowest since coming to MLB.

In the final game, Luis Cessa will get his fifth start of his career after spending some time in the bullpen for short stretches earlier this season. Cessa hasn’t been good outside of his first start where he threw six scoreless against the Angels, but he has kept the Yankees in the game giving them five plus innings and allowing four or less runs. He doesn’t strike out many, 16.0% as a starter, but limits walks, 5.3% as a starter.

The Yankees bullpen has held it’s own since losing Miller and Chapman, but isn’t the dominant force it once was.

Any bullpen would take a massive hit when you lose two of the best five or so relievers in MLB, but they still have one remaining in Dellin Betances.

Betances hasn’t been as dominant as he been in the last two years by runs allowed with a 2.31 ERA, but his 1.55 FIP would be a career best. He’s striking out a career best and absurd 44.1% of batters faced. When batters have reached base they are scoring more than they ever had. He’s only stranded 76.9% which is still good, but not the mid to upper 80% rate he had the previous two seasons.

At the deadline the Yankees didn’t only sell as they picked up Tyler Clippard who was having a sub par season compared to his track record with a 4.30 ERA and 4.32 FIP with the Diamondbacks. However, since moving back to pinstripes he has on earned run (three runs total) in 16 innings.

Gary Sanchez is hitting the ball extremely well right now.

In our last visit to Yankee Stadium the Rays saw two youngsters make their debuts in Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, but since then Gary Sanchez has earned a promotion and absolutely crushed baseballs. He is hitting .348/.423/.713 and 198 wRC+ with 11 homers over 130 plate appearances. It is his first real taste of MLB time except for two plate appearances last year.

Since hitting back to back homers in their first MLB plate appearances off Matt Andriese, Judge and Austin have really struggled. Judge is hitting .171/.244/.329 and 50 wRC+ over 78 PA and Austin is hitting .224/.255/.388 and 67 wRC+ over 51 PA which include their first career homers.

The Yankees veteran bats are struggling in the second half. Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .256/.306/.352 and 75 wRC+. Brian McCann is hitting .212/.299/.292 and 62 wRC+. Mark Teixeira is limping towards the end of his career by hitting .208/.303/.360 and 79 wRC+.

Alex Cobb looks to build on his really solid first outing.

Tonight Alex Cobb takes the mound for the second time after settling in after his first two innings against the Blue Jays last Friday. How Cobb ends this season will likely determine many of the plans regarding the rotation this off season. Results don’t really matter, but him having his pitches back would be huge; his last start was a really good first step.

Finally, this Sunday will be the 15th anniversary of the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001 in New York City. There will surely be many reminders of the occasion during the series leading up to the Sunday afternoon showdown.