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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Series preview

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This serious could answer a lot of questions for the Yankees.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After punching their ticket to the AL Wild Card Game on Saturday, the Yankees are now on the quest to secure home-field advantage. They didn’t do themselves any favors by losing against the Orioles yesterday. Now they head to Florida to start their last road trip of the regular season.

For some reason, the Yankees just haven’t been able to figure out the Rays this season. The last time they won a series against Tampa Bay was at home in mid-June. One weekend later, the Rays swept a three-game set against the Bombers, and have won four of the last six games against them. The Yankees really need to find a way to win this series since the wrap up the season against the Red Sox.

Usually, our series previews go through the probable pitching matchups. However, neither the Yankees nor the Rays are cooperating on that front. We can guess that Tampa Bay will use openers for most of these games, as they have done all season. That strategy has worked annoyingly well to quiet the Yankees’ bats. The one thing we know for sure is that Diego Castillo will open today’s game. He owns a 3.25 ERA and surrendered three runs through seven innings against the Bombers this season.

As for the Yankees, we know that they intend to start Sonny Gray during one of these games. This move serves two purposes. First, it gives the regular starters an extra day of rest ahead of the postseason. It also gives the team an opportunity to shuffle the rotation around. Brian Cashman indicated that the Wild Card starter will be whichever pitcher looks the best during this final week. It must be down to Luis Severino, J.A. Happ, or Masahiro Tanaka, so keep an eye on their performances. That could be decided during this series.

Didi Gregorius’ fate will likely be decided during this series, too. The shortstop suffered a cartilage tear in his wrist while sliding into home on Aaron Hicks’ walk-off hit Saturday night. He received a cortisone shot, but if he doesn’t respond to the treatment then he will be out for the remainder of the season. If Gregorius is unable to play, does that open the door to Adeiny Hechavarria? Neil Walker? Hopefully we won’t have to find out.