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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Series Preview

The AL East lead is on the line as the Rays come to town for a three-game series

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Fresh off a rain-shortened sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees are now set to face the Tampa Bay Rays for their second series in less than a week. Last week, the two teams played down in Florida, but this time the Rays head up north to the Bronx.

Regardless of where they’ve played, the Yankees are a hot team right now. They are 21-9 over their last 30 games and have won their last four series. Hopefully, this month-long hot streak can continue, as the Rays only hold a half-game lead on the AL East. The winner of this series is going to be the division leader by the end of the weekend. Let’s breakdown the matchups:

Game one: CC Sabathia vs. Ryne Stanek (opener)

Sabathia faced the Rays the last time he took the mound on May 11, and he turned in a pretty standard 2019 Sabathia performance. He went five innings and only allowed two runs to score. Both runs did come off solo homers, but Sabathia was economical. He only gave up three hits and threw just 76 pitches.

Last time out, Sabathia went opposite Ryne Stanek and the rest of the Rays’ bullpen, and that looks to be the case this time around too. Stanek went two innings against the Yankees last week, but after a 22-pitch outing Wednesday, he might only be good for one this time around. After Stanek, Yonny Chirinos is set to get multiple innings of work. The Yankees put up two runs against Chirinos last week, but it’s probably still a little early to say the Yankees have his number. Only Brett Gardner has more than five plate appearances against the Rays long reliever.

Game two: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Blake Snell

Tanaka and Snell also faced off against one another last week, and if we can get a repeat of that game, everyone will be pleased. Tanaka led the Yankees to a 7-1 victory and turned in his best performance of the season along the way. He threw seven innings of one-run ball and had 10 swinging strikes on 73 pitches.

Snell put forth a solid performance of his own last time against the Yankees. He struck out 12 in 5.2 innings, but his two earned runs proved enough to take the loss. Despite a 3.56 ERA, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner might be even more dangerous this season than last. He’s improved his strikeout and walk rates and generates more soft contact than last year. If it weren’t for two bad starts, Snell’s entire line would be steady with his numbers from last season.

Game three: TBD vs. Charlie Morton

With Jonathan Loaisiga and James Paxton on the injured list, it hasn’t been determined who will start for the Yankees in the third game of this series. If I had to make a guess, Luis Cessa seems like a good candidate to get the start this game. He was set to go on Monday before the Yankees got rained out against the Orioles. Thanks to a slightly different approach, Cessa has taken a step forward this season after a couple of middling years as an up-and-down spot starter. If the Yankees don’t go with Cessa, Chance Adams is currently on the active roster and could potentially go this game too. He hasn’t pitched since May 7.

Charlie Morton gets the ball for the Rays in the final game of the series. The Yankees missed Morton last time these two teams played, so this will be the first time they see Morton this year. No one will question that Snell is the ace of this staff, but since signing with the Rays in the offseason (what a weird thing to type), Morton has been just as good. In 50.1 innings, he’s only surrendered two homers and struck out 61. Walks can be a bit of a problem though. His 3.8 BB/9 is a little unsightly, but he doesn’t let those free passes hurt too much. Morton’s 2.32 ERA is top 10 in the league.