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Rays Series Preview: Escape from New York

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays own the best record in the American League and second best in Major League Baseball as they’ve gone on a 18-3 tear over the past three weeks.

This afternoon the trade deadline passes with the Rays looking like a near lock (99.9% playoff chances and 68.9% to win the American League East) for the playoffs, so any move should focus on improving a playoff roster and not be about just getting there.

As for now, the Rays continue to put pitchers on the Injured List at a worrisome pace. It looks like Charlie Morton, Nick Anderson, and Oliver Drake should return sometime this week, and Morton probably during this series.

The Rays face the New York Yankees who have won three in a row after a five run come behind in the bottom of the seventh of a seven inning game to beat the New York Mets. The Yankees were scuffling, dropping seven in row prior to their three game win streak.

The Rays aren’t the only ones with injuries as the Yankees have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, James Paxton, Zack Britton, Luis Severino, and Tommy Kahnle Everybody has to deal with injuries, so they aren’t likely to get any sympathy from Rays fans.

The Rays have locked in a series win holding a 6-1 head to head advantage and are 3.5 games ahead in the AL East race. The Yankees have played 3 fewer games than the Rays but most importantly the Rays have lost two fewer games.


Monday 7:05 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Gerritt Cole
Tuesday TBA vs Masahiro Tanaka
Wednesday 7:05 PM: TBA vs Jordan Montgomery

If it seems like Tyler Glasnow always faces off against Gerritt Cole it’s because he does.

Tonight will be the fourth matchup in the last year, and third time this season. This year the Rays have split the two decisions. Cole has been homer prone this year allowing ten this year (three against the Rays) in 41.0 innings. Overall he’s been solid with a 3.51 ERA/4.38 FIP/3.41 xFIP, but not quite up to the unrealistic expectations that come with signing the largest contract ever by a pitcher.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Masahiro Tanaka has been solid after a slow start due to taking a liner off the head in Spring Training 2.0. This year he’s posted a 3.48 ERA/3.81 FIP/4.30 xFIP. He’s been good in all but his last start against the Rays. The Rays posted six runs, five earned, over 4.0 innings with two homers.

Jordan Montgomery is a left hander who is returning from Tommy John surgery. In 24.1 innings he has a 4.44 ERA/3.71 FIP/3.88 xFIP. This will be his first time facing the Rays this season, but he’s been a solid average pitcher for the Yankees over 200+ MLB innings.

Charlie Morton is expected to be activated and start the second game in the series on Tuesday. He’ll have to build up to a full workload and is sure to be on a very limited pitch count. Getting him back 100% as we head to the playoffs is the primary goal.

Trevor Richards probably starts Wednesday’s game unless a last minute trade is made for a starting pitcher that impacts who should start in one of the TBA games.

Rays offense has out performed the Yankees offense.

Over the last few weeks the Yankees offense has suffered injures to their offense. The lineup without Judge, Stanton, and Torres is much less fearsome than one with them.

Overall the Yankees have hit .245/.339/.452 and put up a 114 wRC+. The Rays are tied in wRC+ while outscoring the Yankees 5.23 runs per game to 4.97.

Luke Voit is still smashing the baseball hitting .303/.367/.697 line and 181 wRC+. He leads the team with 12 homers.

DJ LeMahieu continues to hit after returning from the Injured List last weekend as he threatens .400 with a .398/.444/.530 line and 170 wRC+.

Gary Sanchez has struggled, but still has massive power as he displayed yesterday in an extra inning grand slam.

Keep winning series.

While the Rays have adding in some sweeps over the last three weeks on their way to a 18-3 record over their last 21 games it important just keep winning series.

The Rays already own the head to head tie break so winning two out of three should put the Rays in very good shape to take down the division. Even anything besides a sweep would be a solid outcome.