No matter what happens this upcoming series, the Yankees will head into the All-star break leading the AL East. That’s an incredible feat considering the never ending list of injuries the Yankees have dealt with since the beginning of the season. To think, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances both haven’t even thrown a pitch for the Yankees thus far, and Miguel Andujar will be a non-factor until next season. No one could have predicted how successful the Yankees would be without their ace, one of the best relievers in the league, and the every day players consistently found on the injured list. If Aaron Boone doesn’t win the Manager of the Year award, we know Gleyber Torres will back him up.
The Tampa Bay Rays will be looking for either a sweep or to win the series in their hunt to inch closer to a division title. The Yankees have become regular hosts of the AL Wild Card game but wouldn’t mind allowing their AL East counter parts to take the honors this season. Here’s how they matchup for this four-game set.
Game one: J.A. Happ vs. Yonny Chirinos
Happ’s season has been a complete roller coaster ride. The consistent second-half starter that we saw last season is no more. His last start against the Houston Astros was his worst, allowing three home runs with a total of eleven hits. He has been able to rebound multiple times, but hasn’t really put together consecutive dominant starts. Hopefully with a new calendar month, Happ is able to correct his struggles and look more like the pitcher he was when he initially joined the Yankees.
Chirinos has gone from being the long man following an opener, to joining the Rays rotation as a starter. It’s worked out well for them, as he has put together five consecutive quality starts since June 7. He’s no stranger to the Yankees’ lineup, having already tossed 14.2 innings against them. With most of the regular hitters back from the IL, this could be the best lineup Chirinos has faced thus far.
Game two: Masahiro Tanaka vs Brendan McKay
Following a start in London that hardly saw any pitcher find success, Tanaka will look to rebound against the Rays. He has dominated them this season and throughout his career. This season he has pitched 22 innings against the Rays, allowing one earned run, collecting 23 strike outs and allowing only one walk. He’ll be looking to reproduce the complete game he tossed against them on June 17.
Brendan McKay recently made his major league debut on June 29 as a pitcher, and his batting debut on July 1. He picked up his first MLB win in six innings against the Texas Rangers. He used his four seam fastball about half the time, and complemented it with a curveball and cutter as his secondary pitches. You don’t see a two-way player very often, but now the AL East has one. This should be very interesting to watch.
Game three: CC Sabathia vs Blake Snell
Sabathia has pitched two consecutive starts where he allowed two or less runs and lasted six innings. He’ll look to keep that streak alive in game three of this series. He last pitched on June 24, giving the veteran over a week of rest. That should bode well for the health of his knee. Sabathia has tossed two quality starts against the Rays this season, and is looking to add a third to the list.
The Yankees absolutely overpowered Snell on June 19. It was an unconventional start for the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and he will surely look to make up for the loss during this series. So far, he is winless against the Yankees this season.
Game four: James Paxton vs TBD
Paxton was able to keep the Mets at bay during his last outing and will look to do the same against the Rays, as he faces them for the first time this season. The ace pitcher the Yankees were expecting when acquiring Paxton hasn’t shown himself yet but there have been flashes. It’s up to Paxton to take those performances, figure out what has lead to those successful starts, and find a way to repeat them.
With the Rays being the creators of the opener, it wouldn’t be a Rays series unless the Yankees face one. Therefore, on Sunday the Rays have lined themselves up for the use of one. The Yankees carry an 8-0 record when using the opener, dominating the strategy put out by their rival last season.