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Series Preview: Yankees Come In For A Visit

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Aaron Hicks
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays return home after their most successful road trip of the season. They won series against the pre-season favorite Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians.

The New York Yankees enter the series winners of only three of their last eight. The Rays won the first series at the Trop 2-1.

The Matchups:

Friday 7:10 PM: Luis Severino vs Erasmo Ramirez

Saturday 4:10 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs Matt Andriese

Sunday 1:10 PM: CC Sabathia vs Chris Archer

The Yankees starting rotation is their weak spot.

The Yankees rotation has combined for a 4.55 ERA and 4.42 FIP. The starters have been bitten by the long ball, 17.0% HR/FB, which isn’t all that surprising when Yankee Stadium is your home park.

Luis Severino has had a great start to the season after he struggled last year. His 21.9% HR/FB rate is ugly, but the rest has been quite good. He’s posted a 3.86 ERA and 3.75 FIP due to a 27.7% strikeout rate and 5.9% walk rate. Earlier this season he held the Rays to two runs in seven innings. In his last outing the Astros knocked him out after 2.1 innings after allowing three runs on six hits and receiving three free passes.

Masahiro Tanaka has not had the season he would have hoped heading into the decision whether to opt-out of his contract after the season. He’s allowed a 5.80 ERA and 5.37 FIP. His strike outs are down to 17.1% and the HR/FB rate is up to 21.3%. He’s had two absolute clunkers. On opening day the Rays hit him hard on the way to seven runs over 2.2 innings including two homers. In his last start he allowed eight runs in 1.2 innings with four homers allowed to the Astros.

The strikeouts are down and the walks are up for CC Sabathia. He’s allowed a 4.93 ERA and 4.83 FIP. He worked through five shutout innings against the Rays earlier this season. He worked through 6.2 scoreless innings his last time out against the Royals.

The Yankee bullpen is weakened without Chapman.

Aroldis Chapman went on the disabled list this past week with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss about a month. There’s no doubt without Chapman the road late in the game is easier, but the Yankees bullpen has been very effective.

The Yankees have posted the second lowest bullpen ERA at 2.49 and have the lowest FIP at 2.53.

Even though the Yankees argued he isn’t a closer in his arbitration hearing Dellin Betances is the man right now. His strike out rate is obscene at 42.3%. His walk rate has ballooned to 17.3%. He hasn’t allowed a homer yet. He’s posted a 0.73 ERA and 1.66 FIP.

Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, and Tyler Clippard have been outstanding. All throwing at least 16.2 innings with ERAs below 2.16 and FIPs below 2.38.

Even though the road is easier without two elite, shutdown relievers in the back end of the bullpen it will not be easy.

The Yankees offense has been best in the American League.

The Yankees offense leads all of baseball with a 122 wRC+. They have posted a .274/.354/.456 line. The Yankees lead the America League with 5.79 runs scored per game.

The Aaron’s have led the offense. As we saw earlier this year Judge has tremendous power and is putting up a 204 wRC+ for the year. Hicks has a 183 wRC+ and has a two homer game against the Rays earlier this year.

Part of the offensive rebound for the Yankees has come from the veteran bats. Starlin Castro (154 wRC+), Brett Gardner (141 wRC+), Matt Holliday (135 wRC+), Jacoby Ellsbury (114 wRC+), and Didi Gregorius (112 wRC+) have all played big roles in the Yankee offense.

Gary Sanchez has put up a 135 wRC+ and has started hitting after spending about a month on the disabled list.

The Rays have an opportunity against the leader of the division.

As some point you have to play the guys at the top and you’ll be given the opportunity to pick up a win while giving your biggest competition a loss.

The Rays had a rough time when they were swept in New York, but looked good against the Yankees in Saint Petersburg. Let’s hope we see more of the latter than the former this series.

The Rays currently stand one game under .500. The games won’t get easier here on out, but after this run of 13 games in row the schedule gets much less strenuous once the calendar flips to June.