Series Preview: Streaking Yankees take on pesky Rays

The New York Yankees may have found their mojo after a two-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds this week and winning three out of four against the Seattle Mariners over the weekend. Now they look to continue that momentum and put distance between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays who are just a game and a half behind them in the standings. The four-game series at Yankee Stadium could be the difference between first and third place.


GAME ONE: (Thursday, July 27 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET)
CC Sabathia (9-3, 3.44 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (7-6, 3.77 ERA)

Both teams will come out guns blazing with the big guy CC Sabathia squaring up against Chris Archer. Sabathia has pitched well in his last two starts, allowing only one run and throwing at least five innings. He has started twice against the Rays, pitching a shutout early in the season and two runs in five innings back in May. Now, the Yankees turn to Sabathia with a chance to go ahead in the standings should the Red Sox stumble.

On the opposite side is Chris Archer who has had a rough July. With only only one win in four starts, Archer is in need of a strong outing to keep his team close the division leaders. Against the Yankees he's given up multiple runs in both starts and hasn't had a shutout performance since May 10th. The key for the Yankees will be to hit Archer early and give Sabathia an easy day against a strong Rays team.
photo by Frank Franklin II/AP


GAME TWO: (Friday, July 28 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET)
Masahiro Tanaka (7-9, 5.37 ERA) vs. TBD

Tampa Bay will send a mystery man to the mound on Friday but the Yankees are hoping for a better showing from their starter Masahiro Tanaka. This month has been a return to the rough waters the team has been accustomed to with Tanaka, surrendering at least three runs in his last three starts. His last outing against Seattle saw the right-hander give up four runs over six innings. Tanaka will need to keep that number down along with his pitch count if he intends to become the reliable guy at the top of the rotation that the team expected him to be.

For the Rays it could be a spot starter that takes the mound. The problem with that is whether or not the pitcher will have the nerves to deal with a deadly Yankee lineup. The team has hit well all year and have added extra pop in Todd Frazier.
image from Getty Images


GAME THREE: (Saturday, July 29 | First Pitch: 1:05 PM ET)
Caleb Smith (0-1, 8.10 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (0-6, 4.86 ERA)

Don't let the numbers fool you, this match-up has the potential to be one of the better pitched games in the series. Caleb Smith made his first start of the season last week against the Seattle Mariners. Despite giving up four runs in 3.2 innings, Smith looked strong. The hard-throwing lefty struck out two and had good movement on his off-speed pitches. The question will be whether or not he can tight-rope walk out of danger when he needs to.

Blake Snell may be 0-6 but he has pitched well this month. The 24-year old left-hander threw seven strong innings against the Baltimore Orioles in his last start, giving up only three runs. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to break his losing streak. Overall Snell has been pesky to the opposition but can be rattled. The Yankees will need to be on point to put Smith in a winning position early in the game.
photo from New York Yankees


GAME FOUR: (Sunday, July 30 | First Pitch: 1:05 PM ET)
Jordan Montgomery (7-5, 3.92 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (5-1, 2.67 ERA)

The series will close with Jordan Montgomery throwing against Jacob Faria. Montgomery has quickly become an essential part of the Yankee rotation and provided wins when the team has needed them. The only blip this month was a poor outing against the Minnesota Twins where he surrendered six runs. His last start on Tuesday was a strong showing, pitching into the seventh inning for a win.

Faria has had a strong month, pitching into the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles in his last start. His below 3.00 ERA makes him a major threat as well as the fact that he's only given up five home runs since beginning his season in early June. His strikeout numbers aren't high, so the Yankees will be making contact. Whether or not it will be solid contact will remain to be seen.
photo by Paul J. Bereswill


Players to Watch:

Yankees:


photo from Getty Images

Didi Gregorius
Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius came into this season on a mission to prove that he is essential to the team's success and has done that in a big way. He has hit home runs in three consecutive games with his two-home run performance in Seattle being the first time he's ever left the yard twice. His .307 batting average is also impressive as he has provided at both ends of the diamond all season long.

photo by Adam Hunger/AP

Jacoby Ellsbury
One-time All Star Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the most expensive bench players in all of baseball. That has to do with the fact that the outfielder has seemingly lost confidence at the plate. That doesn't mean that he isn't useful to the team as we've seen with Girardi's propensity for including him late in games as a pinch runner. The years of Ellsbury producing at the plate may be long gone but he is still an important weapon for the Yankees and has the legs to be one of the best players off the bench in the league.

Rays:

Evan Longoria
Entering play on Thursday, Evan Longoria has hit in his last five games. The power isn't quite there but that isn't stopping the Rays' star player from contributing with a .346 batting average and 14 RBI in the month of July. It seems like he is hitting just about anything thrown at him which is not a good sign for Yankee pitching. His strikeout numbers are also rather low, meaning he is a pest at the plate and takes nearly an measure to get on base.

Article by: Anthony Merced

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