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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Nick Nelson vs. Michael Wacha

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Expect some combination of Nick Nelson and Michael King in a likely bullpen game for the Yankees series opener against the Rays

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees take on the Rays in the series opener tonight, looking to avenge the 2-1 series loss at the hands of the filter-feeders. The Bombers avoided the complete embarrassment of a sweep in the first series against the Rays at The Trop, and with their opponents having dropped three of four to the lowly Rangers this week, the New York outfit could be catching them at the opportune moment. Nothing is a guarantee against their division foes, evidenced by the Rays’ superiority in the head-to-head matchup over the last few seasons.

Aaron Boone announced that Nick Nelson will open tonight’s game, followed by Michael King, who was recalled from the alternate site earlier today. It will be the Yankees’ first bullpen game of the season, and certainly not the last. Expect Nelson to provide one to two strong opening frames, with King hopefully covering the bulk of innings in “relief”

Nelson has had a deceptively good start to the season, as his inflated 9.00 ERA belies the true quality of his appearances (0.63 FIP, 42.1 percent strikeout rate). Maybe the Yankees are hoping he can come out firing at 110 percent to neutralize a dangerous top of the Rays lineup. As for King, he looked brilliant in his lone outing of the season: six shutout innings of relief against the Blue Jays in which he allowed only one hit and one walk. His Achilles heel in his short major league career has been making it multiple times through the order, so perhaps starting his outing against the bottom of the lineup can avoid repeated exposure to the Rays’ best hitters.

The Yankees starting nine for tonight is encouraging on multiple levels. DJ LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, and Clint Frazier all return to the lineup. A lifeless Jay Bruce is blessedly absent as Rougned Odor handles second, sliding LeMahieu to first. A struggling Aaron Hicks is finally moved down from the third spot in the order, replaced by Gleyber Torres. Just about the strongest group one could ask for to usher in the weekend.

As for the Rays, they send out Michael Wacha. The tall righty has struggled so far, with a 7.00 ERA in nine innings including three earned in a four inning relief appearance against the Yankees. They send out their A-lineup, which includes Randy Arozarena — who homered twice in the last series, and Austin Meadows — who was plunked twice by Jordan Montgomery.

How to watch

Location: Yankee Stadium - The Bronx, New York, NY

First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

TV broadcast: YES Network, Bally Sports Sun, MLB Network (out-of-market)

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online stream: MLB.tv

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