The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off a big series victory against the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays locked in the head to head tiebreaker while also keeping themselves ahead of the Orioles in the wild card standings. I couldn’t have imagined typing those words in 2022, but here we are.
There are eight teams playing for four American League playoff spots with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees 10.0 plus game leads in their division as we near September. Unless you are the 2011 Boston Red Sox or Atlanta Braves that is a nearly insurmountable lead.
The American League Central Cleveland Guardians would be tied with the Seattle Mariners for the second wild card sitting 0.5 game behind the Toronto Blue Jays and 0.5 game ahead of the Rays should they lose grip of the division lead. The other teams with some reasonable chance to win a wild card are the Orioles (1.5 games back), Minnesota Twins (2.0 games back), Chicago White Sox (2.0 games back), and the Boston Red Sox (4.5 games back).
The Rays head to New York facing a team that has gone through a rough patch. Through June 29th the Yankees had a 56-20 record and were on pace for 119 wins. Since then they have gone 16-22. Even worse they have gone 2-9 over their last 11. They are still in a great spot due to their scorching hot start, but they still have to get to the finish line.
Monday 7:05 PM: Jalen Beeks vs Gerrit Cole
Tuesday 7:05 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs Nestor Cortes
Wednesday 7:05 PM: Corey Kluber vs Domingo German
Gerrit Cole continues to be the dominant pitcher that the Yankees expected when they signed him to the biggest contract ever for a pitcher. In 138.1 innings he’s posted a 3.38 ERA/3.26 FIP/2.67 xFIP with a 32.5% strikeout rate and 6.0% walk rate. In three starts totaling 19.1 innings the Rays have only managed two runs while they have struck out 29 times and collecting 7 walks. Cole had been a bit shaky since the All-Star break, where he’s allowed four or more runs in three of his six starts until he put up a dominant outing against the Mariners his last time out. Cole works off a high octane 97.9 mph four-seam fastball that he throws more than half of the time. Against righties he leans on a 88.6 mph slider that has a whiff rate of 42.6%. Against left handers he uses a 82.9 mph curveball and 89.8 mph changeup to keep batters off balanced. He will sprinkle in a 92.1 mph cutter to batters from both sides of the plate.
Nestor Cortes has been nearly as good as Cole this season. He’s posted a 2.67 ERA/3.33 FIP/3.67 xFIP with a 26.8% strikeout rate and 6.2% walk rate. The Rays have fared better against Cortes putting up 6 runs in 18.0 innings striking out 12 times while walking 4 times. Cortes doesn’t bring the same velocity as Cole, and is primarily a three pitch pitcher using a 91.7 mph four-seam fastball, 86.8 mph cutter, and 77.4 mph slider. He will occasionally throw a 82.8 mph changeup to right handed batters.
Domingo German has had a shaky 2022 season for the Yankees. He’s posted a 4.18 ERA/5.02 FIP/4.76 xFIP over 23.2 innings. His strikeout rate has plummeted to 16.0% while he’s maintained an average 7.8% walk rate. German throws a 93.1 mph four-seam fastball, 81.2 mph curveball, and 85.9 mph changeup. He doesn’t lean on one pitch more than the others.
Aaron Judge has been MLB’s best hitter.
The Yankees have the second highest scoring offense in the majors trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ve hit .242/.328/.438 and put up a 119 wRC+. They lead the majors with 192 homers and are tied for fourth with 74 stolen bases.
Aaron Judge is having a great season at the plate. He’s hitting .300/.398/.678 and putting up a 199 wRC+. He leads the majors with 46 homers and has collected 12 stolen bases. He’s the star of The Show this season.
Elsewhere, Anthony Rizzo (135 wRC+) has rebounded after a couple of down years before signing with the Yankees last winter. DJ LeMahieu (135 RC+) had rebounded after a disappointing 2021 season. He was out of the lineup last night and might be forced to the Injured List due to a foot injury.
Gleyber Torres (106 wRC+), Josh Donaldson (100 wRC+), Aaron Hicks (94 wRC+), and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (83 wRC+) have been solid producers in everyday roles.
At the deadline they decided to trade strikeouts for contact in moving Joey Gallo while acquiring Andrew Benintendi. Since the trade Benintendi has hit .196/.323/.294 and put up a 84 wRC+, so the jury is out on if the Yankees actually improved.
How many games will the Rays win against the Yankees?
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