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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Series Preview

The Yankees and Rays battle for AL East supremacy in three games at Yankee Stadium.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough series in Chicago, the Yankees return home to begin a ten-game home stand in New York. They begin with a three-game set against Tampa Bay, as the two teams compete for first place atop the American League East. Entering play on Monday, the Yankees lead the season series 4-2. Here’s how the two teams are set to matchup this week in the Bronx:

Game one: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Yonny Chirinos

The Yankees pushed Tanaka back from his projected Sunday start and he’ll take the ball Monday at Yankee Stadium. He’ll be looking to get back on track after failing to record a quality start in his last three outings. Tanaka is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in eight starts at home this season and stifled the Rays in back-to-back starts May 12th and 18th, surrendering only one run in 13 innings of work. The Yankees will look for Tanaka to recreate his success against the Rays and get himself back in the win column Monday night.

Tanaka will be opposed by Yonny Chirinos, who has been a revelation for Tampa Bay this season. Chirinos enters the series at 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA and is 4-2 with a 2.36 ERA in eight starts. He faced the Yankees twice in May following the opener and surrendered only two runs in 8.2 innings of work. Gio Urshela has seen the ball well against Chirinos and is 3-for-4 against the right-hander this season. Edwin Encarnacion is expected to be active for the Yankees and should make his debut as the Yankees DH.

Game two: J.A. Happ vs. Ryan Yarbrough

Happ will face the Rays for the first time this season in game two of the series. The Yankees left-hander has been up and down all season, but he’s had the majority of his struggles at home, where he’s 3-3 with a 5.35 ERA. The bad news for Happ is that the Rays have a handful of players who thrive against left-handed pitching, namely Yandy Diaz, who’s slashing .348/.430/.623 against lefties this season. Happ will also have to be particularly careful with Avisail Garcia. The Rays outfielder has taken Happ yard twice in nine career at-bats and is in the midst of one of his best career seasons.

The Rays will send a left-hander of their own to the mound in game two, 27-year-old Ryan Yarbrough. Much like Happ, Yarbrough’s had an uneven season. He’s 5-3 with a 5.59 ERA this season as both a starter and reliever. He’s 2-2 with a 4.82 ERA in four starts, but has been exceptional in his two road starts (versus Cleveland and Boston). Giancarlo Stanton is set to return to the lineup Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see how Boone chooses to use the DH position with Encarnacion and Stanton on the roster together.

Game three: CC Sabathia vs. Blake Snell

The Yankees will face Rays ace Blake Snell in a day game on Wednesday. Snell has made eight of his 14 starts during the day this season and enters Wednesday with a 4.07 ERA in those starts. Snell has pitched to a 2.41 ERA in two starts against the Yankees so far this season, but has yet to record a win. He’ll face off against Sabathia, who’s struggled in his last two starts, but owns a 2.33 ERA in five starts at home. The key matchups for both teams could come at the catcher position. Gary Sanchez is slashing .286/.474/1.000 in 19 career plate appearances against Snell, and Rays catcher Mike Zunino enters Wednesday with a .455/.500/.727 line in 13 plate appearances against Sabathia.

Something interesting to keep an eye on, Rays outfielder Tommy Pham recently made comments about the lack of All-Star votes for players on small market teams like Tampa Bay and singled out Brett Gardner as a player undeserving of the votes he’s received this season. This could be some added motivation for Gardner, and with Sabathia on the mound Wednesday, it wouldn’t be shocking to see these two teams add to their recent rivalry.