Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays v.s. New York Yankees

After an impressive series that saw the New York Yankees (73-65) sweep the rival Toronto Blue Jays, the Bombers will welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to the Bronx as they begin a four game set. As was the case against the Blue Jays, this series will be crucial for the Yankees as they hang on to their slim playoff odds. With the Rays record at 59-79, it’s safe to say they aren’t the best team around. But, the Yankees cannot play down to their level, as they sometimes have a habit of doing so.

Players to watch

  1. Aaron Judge: To say Aaron Judge has had a strikeout problem would be an understatement. We knew that he was going to be punched out a lot, but not at this rate. He’s struck out 37 times in his last 69 at-bats, or 53% of the time he’s come to the plate. There’s no reason to panic yet, however, as Judge is still getting used to Major League pitching, and has plenty of time to develop. But, if he keeps striking out at this rate, he might put an end to any of the slim hopes the Yankees have for the postseason.

  1. Masahiro Tanaka: It’s a shame that Tanaka doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past month, going 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA since August 7th. He’ll be facing a Tampa lineup that struck out eight times against him last time. For the Yankees, they can’t really ask much more from their Japanese-ace. He’ll need to keep it up to continue the playoff push.

  1. Gary Sanchez: “El Kraken” has come back down to Earth after his record-shattering month of August. He’s hitting below .200 over his past seven games with no home runs, somewhat a disappointment! But really, he’s still hitting a fantastic .348 with 11 homers and 21 RBI’s. A return to the Bronx could be just what he needs to get back in his groove.

AP Photo - Bill Kostroun

Keys to victory

  1. Keep the momentum going: The Yankees kept their playoff hopes alive after a crucial sweep of the Blue Jays. There were some intense, tight games in that series, which surely gave the team some much needed energy. If the Yankees lose even two of the four games to the Rays, it would be diminishing to their postseason aspirations. The Rays are a mediocre ballclub, and a sweep would instantly boost the Yankees playoff push.

  1. Jump on Chris Archer: While his record (8-17) won’t scare anyone, Chris Archer has been extremely effective his last three starts. He’s pitched to a 2.95 ERA with 25 strikeouts. The Yankees are quite literally hit or miss when it comes to facing Archer. They’d better hope that they can figure him out this time around.

  1. Get Aaron Judge going: We all know about Judge’s struggles lately. Yes, he won’t be stuck in this slump forever, but he needs to start hitting, and soon. MLB pitchers have learned to give him a steady diet of offspeed pitches that exploit his massive strike zone. If he can start hitting a bit more consistently, it’d be a huge help to a team that is fighting for the playoffs.

Photo taken by myself: Phil Akre

Game 1 (9/8) 7:05 PM: Alex Cobb (0-0, 3.60 ERA) v.s. C.C Sabathia (8-12, 4.20 ERA)
Rays’ starter Alex Cobb will be making just his second start of the season when he faces a Yankees lineup that he has done very well against in recent years. In his last start, Cobb struck out seven Blue Jays over five innings, retiring the last ten batters he faced. As for C.C Sabathia, he’s the loser of two straight decisions, where he gave up only four runs in 12 innings combined. Both Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe have gotten the best of C.C of late, with .450 and .421 averages, respectively. A solid start from the hefty lefty would do the Yankees a lot of good.

Game 2 (9/9) 7:05 PM: Blake Snell (5-7, 3.39 ERA) v.s. Michael Pineda (6-11, 5.10 ERA)
Blake Snell is criminally underrated, as he is one of the brightest young arms in the game. Just 23 years of age, Snell has dominated the Yankees in a small sample size of innings. He didn’t allow an extra base hit to the Blue Jays his last time out. It was the first time they’d gone without one since May. For the Yankees, they have to be hoping Big Mike finds some form of consistency. He’s one of the more confusing arms in the game, as his strikeout numbers are fantastic, but his ERA, well, not so much. If Pineda goes six innings with two runs allowed, then mark it down as a good start for the enigmatic right hander.

Game 3 (9/10) 4:05 PM: Chris Archer (8-17, 4.06 ERA) v.s. Masahiro Tanaka (12-4, 3.11 ERA)
Game three of the series will be a true matchup of elite pitchers. Sure, Archer’s numbers look nothing ace-worthy, but he’s simply in a down year. He has the ability to completely shut down an offense. For Tanaka, he’ll simply look to continue his fantastic year. He’s looked like his 2014 self, and without him, the Yankees wouldn’t even be in the discussion for playoffs. He is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA since August 7th. He’s done very well against the Rays lineup this season, and will look to do so again on Saturday.

Cliff Welch - Icon Sportswire

Game 4 (9/11) 1:05 PM: Matt Andriese (6-7, 4.58 ERA) v.s. Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.07 ERA)
On what will be a somber day in New York, the Yankees will look to put the finishing touches on what should be a successful series against the Rays. They’ll be facing righty Matt Andriese, who hasn’t had much success against the Yankees. He’s a so-so arm, and the Yanks need to jump on him. The Yankees will send out rookie Luis Cessa, who has done surprisingly well since being inserted into the rotation. His main problem has been serving up the long ball.

I really do think the Yankees will win three of four, or sweep the Rays. Yes, they’ve played down to their opponents before, but this team looks to be on a mission. They’re fueled by young hitters who have the competitive drive in them. They’ll be sending out two starters on Saturday and Sunday who give them a chance to win. If the Yankees win three of four, their playoff chances will remain intact.

Article by: Phil Akre
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