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Rays Series Preview: Pennant > Pinstripes

MLB: New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Judge has new teeth
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays trip to Boston didn’t go as planned. A series sweep where the team played sloppy is never fun to watch. Even more so when it comes against a division rival.

Time for the Rays to put that behind them.

What better way to move forward than facing the team you are expected to have to beat for the division in your home opener.

The festivities should create an electric atmosphere despite a limit of around 9,000 fans at Tropicana Field for the first time since Game Four of the 2019 American League Division Series. Top it off by raising a banner celebrating last year’s American League Championship team is a good way to reset, but if they continue their sloppy play the good feelings won’t last long.

Losing streaks happen so that’s not that big of a deal. The team just can’t afford to have it spiral out of control.


Friday 3:10 PM: Corey Kluber vs Rich Hill
Saturday 1:10 PM: Domingo German vs Chris Archer
Sunday 1:10 PM: Jordan Montgomery vs Michael Wacha*

Corey Kluber has won two American League Cy Young Awards (2014 and 2017), but has dealt with major injuries the last two years that has contributed to him only able to compile a total of 36.2 innings pitched. His velocity is down. He typically worked in the 94-96 mph range with his fastball at his best, but in his first start of the season averaged 89.5 mph. In his first start he allowed one run in 4.0 innings, but was hit around a bit. The biggest issue was control as he walked three and hit a batter when he has typically posted very strong walk rates in the 5% range.

Domingo German missed the 2020 season due to a suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy. In his first start he allowed three runs including two homers in 3.0 innings. He throws a four seamer and sinker as his fastballs of choice that stay in the 93-95 mph range and adds a low 80s curveball and mid 80s changeup as his breaking ball and offspeed weapon of choice.

Jordan Montgomery looked good in his comeback from Tommy John surgery last year with a 5.11 ERA/3.87 FIP/3.65 xFIP over 44.0 innings. He had an impressive first start of the year holding the Baltimore Orioles scoreless over 6.0 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. He uses a five pitch mix that includes fourseam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, and curveball.

*Both teams have the option of bringing back their aces Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow in the series finale on normal rest if they choose, but at this point in time it doesn’t look like either team plans to push their top starter aggressively early in the season.

The Yankees offense has gotten off to a sluggish start too.

The Yankees line of .254/.342/.378 line and 106 wRC+ is far from bad. They are getting on base, but their .124 ISO ranks sixth worst in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, most of the offense has come from two players: a star hitter and a catcher.

Aaron Judge, who had a day off on Wednesday due to “general soreness” of his side, has gotten off to a quick start hitting .364/.391/.636 and putting up a 183 wRC+ with two homers through 23 plate appearances. Gary Sanchez has gotten off to a hot start too, hitting .278/.350/.667 and 174 wRC+ after struggling in 2020.

DJ LeMahieu is still getting on base but hasn’t gotten an extra base hit yet hitting .280/.400/.280. Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .238/.304/.429 and putting up a 104 wRC+. Aaron Hicks (.100/.217/.100), Gio Urshela (.261/.292/.304) and Jay Bruce (.150/.320/.300) have gotten off to slow starts among the everyday starters.

Today is a day for celebrating!

It’s not only the home opener for the Rays, but they get to celebrate their American League Championship. World Series and local hero Brett Phillips has been activated.

The season hasn’t gotten off to the best start, but it’s still early. Getting a series victory over the rival New York Yankees would definitely put local stingrays in a better mood.