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Yankees vs. Rays: Series Preview

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The Yankees are both home AND away this week, so they better take advantage.

Cincinnati Reds v New York Mets Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Starting tonight, the Yankees will do something we haven’t seen in quite a long time. Because of the path of Hurricane Irma, where Tampa took the brunt of the storm, the Rays were forced to move their home series against the Yankees to “neutral” territory. Well, that neutral territory happened to be Citi Field in Queens, mainly because of the difficulty of booking hotel accommodations for two teams instead of one.

The last time the Yankees played in Queens was back in the 90s, when the old Stadium had some beams fall. They also played at Shea Stadium while the original Yankee Stadium was renovated between 1974 and 1975. This isn’t an entirely new phenomena. There’s a historical precedent for Queens being the Yankees’ home away from home.

That means that while the Yankees will act as the away team in these games, they’re really also the home team. Their fans will be in attendance (myself included), and they can sleep in their own beds. In that way they have a clear edge, one they absolutely need to take advantage of if they want to position themselves for the first Wild Card and have a shot at the division.

Game One: CC Sabathia vs. Jake Odorizzi

Sabathia and Odorizzi are two talented starters who have struggled a bit over the past month. They’ve allowed six and five home runs, respectively, over their last five starts. That mark puts them at almost two per nine! Odorizzi, who sits overall at 8 - 7 with a 4.58 ERA, has also issued 16 walks through his last five starts. Meanwhile Sabathia (11 - 5, 3.91 ERA) has had reasonable control and my bet is that the Yankees will be patient to wear him down.

Game Two: Sonny Gray vs. Blake Snell

The second matchup pairs Gray, who’s coming off his best start as a Yankee against the Orioles, and Snell who has been quite effective in the second half. The Rays southpaw owns a 3.92 ERA since the All-Star break and has a 102 ERA- on the year. He did allow six runs over four innings in his last start against the Twins, so he’s hardly unhittable. Gray, meanwhile, owns a 2.21 ERA in the second half, and has positioned himself towards the front of the Yankees’ rotation.

Game Three: Jaime Garcia vs. Chris Archer

The rubber match is the only one that’s a bit lopsided, with Garcia facing the Rays ace. Archer, by Baseball Prospectus PWARP, has been the fifth-best pitcher in baseball this year, about a hair better than Luis Severino. Garcia, on the other hand, has a 107 DRA- and a 4.43 ERA (102 ERA-). His 115 ERA- with the Bombers has been especially brutal, so the offense will need to get going if they want to overcome such a lopsided match up.

Realistically the Yankees should be shooting for two out of three here, and they should be disappointed if it’s a worse outcome than that. They’re getting games at “home” even though they’re the away team. By my back-of-the-napkin math, that gives them a couple of percentage points of win probability per game versus Tropicana Field. With a team as good as this, in a stretch where they should be getting hotter, you have to take advantage of the odds tipping in your favor.