Weekly Preview: NYY @ TB 7/27 - 7/29, NYY @ MIA 7/30 - 8/1

Here we go again.

Photo credit: Talkin' Jake

The 2021 Yankees have competed yet another heartbreaking series against a division rival team, provoking even more existential dread going into this week’s series against none other than the Tampa Bay Rays.  Writing this piece feels next to pointless, and it’s easy to feel like they are just going to give up (and I’ll give up with them).  Numerous management decisions are questionable at best (taking Luis Cessa out of a game in which he threw five pitches, or leaving Jonathan Loaisiaga in a game in which he clearly didn’t have his best stuff, for example…), but much of the responsibility for the recent state of affairs lies with the Yankees themselves.

While there were some positive individual moments (more on that later…) there were far more negatives than positives.  But it’s important to not count the Yankees out yet, especially in the hunt for an American League Wild Card spot. 

Regardless, we have now arrived at a point in the season where every single game matters.  Every out counts.  And the Yankees need to show more signs of life than they did this weekend, as opposed to late-inning implosions.  That cannot be stressed enough as the Yankees head to Tampa.  Not to mention, we might see some surprises as the Miami series will take place simultaneously with the trade deadline.

The pitching matchups haven’t been announced for the Miami Marlins later in the week, but, here’s what we know so far: 



Game 1: Tuesday, July 27 | First Pitch: 7:10pm | TV: WPIX, MLBN

Jordan Montgomery (3-5, 3.96 ERA) vs. Shane McClanahan (4-3, 3.88 ERA)

Game 2: Wednesday, July 28 | First Pitch: 7:10pm | TV: YES, ESPN

Nestor Cortes Jr. (0-0, 1.95 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (2-2, 5.16 ERA)

Game 3: Thursday, July 29 | First Pitch: 1:10pm | TV: YES Network

Gerrit Cole (10-5, 2.74 ERA) vs. Luis Patino (1-2, 5.26 ERA)



Game 1: Friday, July 30 | First Pitch: 7:10pm | TV: WPIX


Game 2: Saturday, July 31 | First Pitch: 6:10pm | TV: YES Network


Game 3: Sunday, August 1 | First Pitch: 1:10pm | TV: YES Network


Jordan Montgomery has shown great perseverance in big spots.  He did it at Fenway Park over the weekend.  As for the Rays, they have hit a lifetime 11 home runs off Montgomery, and are 13-for-68 with a collective .176 batting average.  With WHIP of 1.175 and 105 strikeouts over 104.2 IP on the season, Monty is showing great signs of dependability, and is having one of the individual performances that can be classified as a “bright spot” in a bleak season.  Additionally, while emotions do not win games on paper, it is apparent that Monty is frustrated with the Yankees' trajectory this season, noting in his postgame presser after the loss to the Red Sox that he was "sick to his stomach." It's refreshing to see how much he is invested.

With regard to Nestor Cortes Jr., he’s another “bright spot” this year -- not to mention, a surprise, with his 1.95 ERA, 34 strikeouts over 27.2 IP and 1.012 WHIP, allowing just one home run on 18 hits. 

Gerrit Cole will be coming off one of his more rough starts, throwing 104 pitches over 5.0 IP on July 23rd in Boston.  The Rays are no collective slouch against Cole, either -- with a lifetime 42-for 158, a .250 batting average, seven home runs and eight walks.  Basically: Cole cannot afford to be complacent when he’s been performing well overall.  This spot is too big, and he is a member of the team who has the potential to carry it when the rest of the roster is underperforming. 

On the Rays side, the Yankees will be facing rookie Shane McClanahan for the first time.  As such it’s difficult to determine how the Yankees will hit against him, but his inexperience helps them.  However, the Yankees lineup and their recent failures might not stack up well against Michael Wacha.  He has collectively struck out the Yankees 22 times over the course of his career, and they are only 13-for-58 against him with two home runs and five RBIs.  Wacha will seemingly be the biggest looming starting pitching threat to the Yankees, as they only faced Luis Patino once earlier this season  They knocked him out after four innings and won the game. 

What to watch for:

Rougie World
One of the brightest spots of recent games is none other than Rougned Odor.  It’s his world and the rest of the team he is trying desperately to liven up with every handshake and mound visit is just, apparently, living in it.  Yankees Twitter loves to hate on Rougie, but we can only hope that his enthusiasm is contagious to the rest of the Yankees offense.  Aside from team spirit, Rougie recorded five RBIs in the recent Red Sox series alone, and hit a much-needed home run in a clutch situation.  What with Luke Voit still injured and DJ LeMahieu covering the 1B spot, Rougie is one of the only infield choices left in the starting lineup -- but he’s trying to establish himself as much more than a last resort.  It will only be too welcome to see him continue on this roll, especially against the Rays. 

Photo credit: Yankees (on Twitter)

The Return of the Covid IL
Gio Urshela returning to the lineup, and to 3B, made me relax just a little bit.  Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka will be back in time for the Rays series.  Loaisiaga, who has dominated in middle relief, imploded against the Red Sox on Sunday after his time on the Covid IL.  Johnny Lasagna has been so solid -- we can hope this incident, however inopportune, was a case of him finding his “sea legs,” and that the fact that he pitched for as long as he did during the implosion was a result of his manager’s decisions.  Urshela’s contributions have already been noticed, Cole will probably look and feel better with Higgy behind the plate and everyone gets better just by being around Judge.  He has the absolute potential to be the offensive boost that is desperately needed. 

sTaNtOn MiGhT pLaY tHe oUtfiELd and hopefully won’t strike out
From early hot streak to absolute slump, watching Giancarlo Stanton is close to torture lately. He remains in the DH spot, and when Cole pitches on Thursday, it would be highly beneficial to have Gary Sanchez AND Stanton in the lineup.  In order for that lineup to happen, Stanton would have to play in the field.  Aaron Boone teased the idea of Stanton making a return to the field before the recent Red Sox series and it just didn’t happen.  However, if Stanton continues to strike out and ground out, having him in the lineup might not be the boost it was once cracked up to be.  His batting average went from .289 in June to .232 in July so far.  In July he also struck out a whopping 24 times.  There could not be a more urgent time for Stanton to have himself a series. 


With the odds stacked against the Yankees, they can take one of two paths: they can implode further, with their metaphorical tails between their legs, playing as though the season is already lost… or, they will turn into literal phoenixes and rise from the ashes, using their adversity to propel them to the postseason. 

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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