Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Yankees

The New York Yankees play the divisional rival Tampa Bay Rays in their home opener.  While the Yanks lost their first two series one being to the Rays, Tampa Bay is coming from a surprising three games to one victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees should be looking to get some home field magic and some easy homeruns in their first series at home to avoid their third straight series defeat.

GAME 1 (Monday April 10th | First pitch 1:05 PM ET)
Probable Pitchers:  Michael Pineda vs. Alex Cobb
Where to watch: YES Network, Fox Sports SUN, MLB Network
The last time Yankees played Alex Cobb was not to along ago, On April 5th Cobb went 5.2 innings while allowing just four hits and one earned. Hopefully, the Yankees, after seeing him the first time, will be better prepared for Cobb.  Michael Pineda gets his second start of the season with no fans really supporting him at this point.  Pineda has gone 11 games dating back to last season without picking up a W. The only reason why he is still in the rotation is because the Yankees starting rotation is one of the weakest in the American League.  Hopefully the Yankees get some adrenaline by wearing the pinstripes at home for the first time this season and start out the series with a win.

GAME 2 (Wednesday April 12th | First pitch 1:05 PM ET)
Probable Pitchers:  Luis Severino vs. Blake Snell
Where to watch: YES Network, Fox Sports SUN, MLB Network
Luis Severino is coming off an underappreciated first start.  His defense behind him played their worst game of the season by far making Severino lose confidence. Out of the four earned runs he allowed in his first start, three were off a Machado bomb. The elite players are going to get the best of a young starting pitcher but that is part of the learning curve.  With the crowd behind him and hopefully some better defense, he will ride the wave of Yankee Stadium and go further than the fifth inning. Blake Snell is coming off a loss against Toronto where he went 6.2 innings allowing three hits but four earned. It will be an interesting matchup between two young pitchers in the MLB.

GAME 3 (Thursday April 13th | First pitch 7:05 PM ET)
Probable Pitchers:  Masahiro Tanaka vs. Matt Andriese
Where to watch: YES Network, SUN, MLB Network
Tanaka needs to pitch better, plain and simple. He should be aiming at going seven innings each night, but that has yet to happen.  As an ace, you need to set the tone for the rest of the rotation and he simply has not done that.  While being almost unhittable in Spring Training, he has been extremely off in his first two games. In Tanaka’s first two games, he has pitched a combined 7.2 innings with an 11.74 ERA. For someone that is making 22-million dollars this season, this is not acceptable.  Tanaka knows that he must step up this game and get revenge from his horrible Opening Day start. Matt Andriese has pitched just four innings this season with a 9.00 ERA.  Expect both pitchers ERA to drop a lot this game but hopefully Tanaka shows his true talent and gets back on track.
Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky | AP

Keys to the series/what to look for:

Starting Pitching - The Yankees get a little lucky because they don’t have to face the Rays ace Chris Archer who has hurt the Yanks in the past. However, that doesn’t mean the Yankees starters shouldn’t be worried. CC Sabathia is the only starter who has been able to get a win this season meaning the starters should be pitching angry.  The Rays have no true ace or all-star pitcher going up this series so the Yanks bats should be swing happy and aiming for the short porch in right field. On the flipside, Yankee pitchers should take advantage of not having to go up against Archer.

Yankee Stadium - There is no place like home.  Maybe what the Yanks need is the bleacher creatures calling everyone’s name out, some home field support, wearing pinstripes and their home run friendly outfield. 

Kyle Higashioka -  Who? That’s right Kyle Higashioka, one of the Yankees prospects that goes quite unnoticed in the media. With Gary Sanchez going to the DL, the Yankees have called up Higgy to split time with Austin Romine at catcher. In Spring Training, he hit .318 in 22 at-bats with seven hits, two doubles, two home runs, 3 RBIs, and struck out six times.  With a small sample size in Spring Training, it will be interesting to see what he does when he gets his opportunity.

Who’s HOT

Brett Gardner - Gardner has been showing off his wheels for what feels like the first time in forever. He has three stolen bases already and is hitting a to a solid .280 batting average, despite coming off an 0-5 game with three strikeouts on Sunday.  Hopefully Gardner can keep these numbers up and be a productive leadoff man for the Yanks.

Ronald Torreyes - If I were to tell you Torreyes has the most RBIs for the Yanks after the first two series you would think I am crazy.  However, the number nine hitter has come up clutch for the Yanks at times and leads the team with seven RBIs.
Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky | AP

Who’s Not

Greg Bird - With an unbelievable spring, Bird’s lack of production is quite surprising.  We found out he is dealing with a foot injury and has been on the sidelines the past two games but that doesn’t explain why he is hitting .063 with seven strike outs in the early going. Let’s hope the days off got him back in his groove and he shows us why Girardi put him at the number three spot in the lineup on Opening Day.
Photo Credit: Brian Blanco | Getty Images

Pitching (not just the starters) - While the starters haven’t been performing well at all, the bullpen also blew two games.  If this trend continues, expect a long and sad season for the Yanks. While many say the team has the best bullpen in the league, they have been underperforming just as the starters have. Let’s look for Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman to get back on track anchoring that bullpen for the rest of the members of it.

Also, Congrats to Matt Holiday on reaching 2,000 hits against the Baltimore Orioles last series. And for going 0-0 with five walks in one game.

Article by: Ben Bell


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