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Series Preview: Red hot Yankees incoming

Gerrit Cole will start on Wednesday

Division Series - New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays salvaged the final game of the series against the Oakland to come home with a successful 5-2 roadtrip. During one of the most grueling segment of their schedule the Rays went 17-13 over 30 games in 31 days.

The New York Yankees are playing very well and have gone 9-3 over their last 12 games. The offense has began hitting putting up a .254/.352/.441 line and 125 wRC+, but the pitching has done the heavy lifting with a 2.77 ERA/3.32 FIP/3.21 xFIP.

Both teams are currently three games back from the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings.


Tuesday 7:10 PM: Jordan Montgomery vs Luis Patino (Ryan Yarbrough expected to follow)
Wednesday 7:10 PM: Gerrit Cole vs Josh Fleming
Thursday 7:10 PM: Jameson Taillon vs Rich Hill

Jordan Montgomery has been solid to start the 2021 season with a 4.41 ERA/4.30 FIP/3.97 xFIP. His strikeout rate is down to 21.2%, but he’s also limited walks to 6.1%. The Rays got to Montgomery in both of his starts this year putting up four runs in each start. Outside of his first start versus Baltimore he’s allowed two plus runs in each start. He’s kept the Yankees in the game by not allowing more than four in any start. Montgomery primarily splits his usage between four pitches fairly equally all coming in between 20-24%. He throws a 92.3 mph sinker, 88.3 mph cutter, 83.0 mph changeup, and 79.7 mph curveball. He will mix in an occasional 92.6 mph four-seam fastball that has about 8.5 inches more of horizontal movement than his sinker even though they come in at similar speeds.

Gerrit Cole has been dominant to start the year. He has a 1.61 ERA/1.29 FIP/2.10 xFIP. His strikeout rate is up to 40.2% and he has walked almost nobody with a 1.8% walk rate. The Rays put up three runs in their first meeting which is the most runs Cole has given up in a single start. In four of his seven starts he’s given up one or fewer runs. Cole leans on his 97.2 mph fastball nearly 50% of the time. Against right handers he’ll use his 88.1 mph slider as his secondary pitch of choice. He will throw it to left handers, but at a far lower frequency. He ups the rate of usage of his 88.9 mph changeup against left handed batters and will throw his 82.9 mph curveball equally against all batters.

Jameson Taillon has been ramped up slowly early in the season as he returns from Tommy John surgery. He has a 5.02 ERA/4.64 FIP/3.84 xFIP and hasn’t faced the Rays yet. In his last start he threw 6.1 innings and was the first time he pitched past the fifth innings and allowed three runs. Taillon’s velocity is down about 1.5 mph from his 2019 numbers. He still throws a firm 93.6 mph four-seam fastball nearly 50% of the time. He mixes in a 87.7 mph slider and 80.9 mph curveball as his secondary weapons of choice. He will throw the slider more often against right handed batters and the curveball against left handed batters. He will occasionally throw a 87.2 mph changeup exclusively to left handed batters.

To help the left handed starters avoid facing the bigger right handed bats three times, the Rays have already chosen to push Luis Patino’s throw day to Tuesday night to face the extreme right handed lineup from the Yankees, and will likely tap another right handed reliever like Andrew Kittredge to open for Josh Fleming on Wednesday as well.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Rougned Odor #18 after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 2021 in New York City.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After a slow start the Yankees offense has gotten on track.

Overall the Yankees offense is hitting .222/.320/.381 and putting up a 102 wRC+. 46 homeruns have them tied for fourth in the majors, but their 138 runs rank tenth worst. The offense will strikeout (23.8%) but they are very patient and draw a lot of walks (12.1%).

The Yankees offense is hitting .265/.330/.468 and putting up a 124 wRC+ against left handed pitchers. The Rays only have Jeffrey Springs and Cody Reed in the bullpen, but four of their five starters or bulk guys throw left handed (Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Fleming, Rich Hill, and Shane McClanahan).

Against right handed pitchers the Yankees are hitting .205/.317/.348 and putting up a 93 wRC+. The biggest drops comes in power.

Giancarlo Stanton (.292/.356/.558, 154 wRC+) leads the way offensively with nine homers. After a slow start he has hit .413/.464/.762 with six homers over his last 15 games that included a 12 game hitting streak. He only managed one hit, a walkoff single, in 14 plate appearances in their last series. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge (134 wRC+), Gio Urshela (125 wRC+), and DJ LeMahieu (123 wRC+) have provided the majority of the offensive firepower for the Yankees lineup.

Gary Sanchez (95 wRC+), Gleyber Torres (91 wRC+), Aaron Hicks (86 wRC+), and Roughed Odor (82 wRC+ now on the IL) have provided adequate support; Torres hit his first homer of the season Sunday afternoon. Clint Frazier (69 wRC+), Brett Gardner (58 wRC+), and Mike Ford (41 wRC+) have struggled.

The Rays look to win another series against the Yankees.

The Rays take on the Yankees at Tropicana Field in a series that has been one very one sided since the beginning of 2020. In the regular season the Rays have gone 13-3 in the head to matchup and knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs with a victory in the 2020 American League Division Series.

The recent results in the series have been very much in the Rays favor, butt some point the Yankees should win their fair share, but hopefully that doesn’t start now.