Series Preview: Yankees @ Rays (7/4-7/7)

Heading into Wednesday, the Yanks owned a 5.5 game lead on the Rays atop the AL East. The Rays currently have home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card game, sitting at 50-36. A series win from the Rays at Tropicana Field would put them right back into the race heading into the All-Star break.

Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

Game One: Thursday, July 4, 5:10 EST (YES, SUN)
JA Happ (7-4, 5.23 ERA) vs. Yonny Chirinos (7-4, 3.10 ERA)

JA Happ has struggled finding a groove in his first full season in pinstripes. After signing a two-year, $34 million deal to remain with the Yanks, he’s failed to live up to those expectations. His ERA (5.23), WHIP (1.28), and FIP (5.51) are all extremely high compared to his career averages and his K/9 is down as well (7.0). Happ's also allowed a concerning 20 homers in his 16 starts. With Happ and fellow left-hander CC Sabathia, the Yanks need at least one of them to find consistency at the back-end of the starting rotation. His most recent outing sent his ERA from 4.59 to 5.23 ERA after allowing 11 hits and eight runs in four innings against the Astros. The start before that was Happ's lone start against the Rays this season, as he had a solid outing, giving up just two runs across five innings of work.

Chirinos has enjoyed a nice breakout season for the Rays, accumulating a 2.1 WAR thus far across 17 appearances, 11 of them being starts. He’s had three outings against the Yanks this season, just one of them being a start. Chirinos has found decent success against the Bombers, enjoying a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings.

Game Two: Friday, July 5, 7:10 EST (YES, SUN)
Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.74 ERA) vs. Brendan McKay (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Tanaka, much like Happ, is coming off arguably the worst start of his career. He couldn’t make it out of the first innings in the series opener in London against the Red Sox, going 0.2 innings while giving up four hits and six runs. That outing alone skyrocketed his ERA from 3.21 to 3.74. A positive to Tanaka pitching in this series though is he has been pure domination against the Rays this season. Across three starts, Tanaka has pitched 22 innings, giving up 10 hits and just one run (0.41 ERA). The best of the three was his most recent one on June 17 when he pitched a two-hit complete game shutout. In starts not against the Rays, Tanaka has a less-than-stellar 4.70 ERA.

Photo Credit: Tim Ireland/AP

McKay was just recently called up to make his major league debut and he was excellent for the Rays. He took a perfect game into the sixth inning, ending up going six innings with just one hit and no runs allowed. McKay, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, also batted eighth for the Rays on Monday while being the DH. He went hitless in his hitting debut and don’t be surprised if the two-way part of his game doesn’t last for long. Since being drafted by the Rays, McKay has hit just .216 while slugging just .356 across 444 ABs in the minors. Meanwhile, he’s 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 38 games, 34 of them starts, in the minor leagues.

Game Three: Saturday, July 6, 4:10 EST (YES, SUN)
CC Sabathia (5-4, 4.04 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (5-7, 4.87 ERA)

Sabathia’s been up-and-down in 2019, but he’s still been a solid fifth option for the Yanks. The veteran left-hander struggled to pick up his 250th career win, which took him four outings to get t0 before finally picking it up against the Rays. In that outing, he struck out seven in six innings, giving up just three hits and one run. In three starts against the Rays this season, Sabathia enjoyed a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings of work.

After winning the AL Cy Young in 2018 and establishing himself as one of the best pitcher’s in baseball, Blake Snell has had a rough 2019 thus far. Despite his K/9 improving to 12.4 and his BB/9 slightly going down, he’s been one of the worst pitchers in the AL, just a year after pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA. Snell came out of May with a 3.06 ERA, one of the best in the AL. The month of June is when things went south, giving up 25 runs in 23.1 innings of work (9.64 ERA) in six starts. His two starts against the Yanks in May were the Snell we’re used to, giving up three runs in 11.2 innings (2.31 ERA) with a tremendous 21 strikeouts. His late-June start against the Yankees lasted just 0.1 innings as he gave up just two hits, but he walked four while six runs came across to score.

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

Game Four: Sunday, July 7, 1:10 EST (YES, SUN, TBS)
James Paxton (5-4, 4.09 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (9-2, 2.36 ERA)

As you may have heard, Paxton has been nowhere near the same pitcher since coming back from injury. Whether he’s pitching through injury or just having trouble knocking off the rust, the Big Maple has been a disappointment as of late. Acquired from the Mariners in a deal headlined by Justus Sheffield, the Yanks need to get him going if they want to make a World Series run in the postseason. Paxton, if healthy, has proven to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. This is a huge start for Paxton in the last game before the All-Star break matching up against one of the AL’s best pitchers.

After a 2018 season in which Morton suddenly became one of the league’s best, he’s only improved those numbers in his first season with the Rays. Morton has been just what this staff has needed, particularly with the down season from Snell. With a 9-2 record and a 2.36 ERA (best in the AL) in 18 starts, he’s made his second consecutive ASG. Morton currently has career bests in ERA (2.36), FIP (2.87), ERA+ (193), WHIP (1.03), K/9 (11.1), and K/BB (3.77). The Yanks did do well against him in his shortest outing of the season back in mid-May, as he went just four innings, giving up four hits and five runs (three earned). Morton also gave up two homers that day, something he’s done just one other time in 2019.  

Article by: Spencer Schultz


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