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New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Series Preview

The Bombers will face a familiar foe starting tomorrow, one that turned out to be more than they could handle last year.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The New York Yankees, fresh off winning their last series against the Baltimore Orioles, will visit the Tampa Bay Rays for a weekend showdown at Tropicana Field. Tampa suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park earlier in the week.

Thankfully, the Yankees might be able to avoid Tyler Glasnow in the series, as the righty is off to a blistering start on the mound this season, with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings and a 2/15 BB/K ratio. He pitched on Tuesday night though, so the earliest he could come back on normal rest is Sunday, and the Rays have other plans.

Nevertheless, it will be a hotly-contested battle between two teams with some spicy recent history. Both the Yankees and Rays still remember last year’s benches-clearing incident in the regular season, and the intense five-game battle in the Division Series that saw Tampa ride Mike Brosseau’s stunning homer to the ALCS.

Friday: Corey Kluber vs. Rich Hill

Much has been said about Corey Kluber in the last few days. He walked seven batters in 13 spring training innings, and the wild trend continued last week in his first start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, when he awarded three free passes in four frames. However, it’s still early in the season and the evidence suggests that he tends to hit his stride in the summer months and takes some time to get into a rhythm. Kluber’s breaking ball looked gorgeous, and he was able to limit the Jays to just one run; he should be fine going forward.

Hill doesn’t need a long introduction. A savvy veteran whose wayward journey back to relevance briefly passed through the Bronx, the 41-year-old southpaw relies on his trademark curveball to succeed. He hasn’t faced the Bombers since 2016. Hill didn’t have a particularly good time in his season debut against the Miami Marlins last weekend, as he allowed four runs in four frames in a no-decision.

Saturday: Domingo Germán vs. Chris Archer

Germán looked extremely good throughout spring training, with a 1.38 ERA, only one walk, and 17 strikeouts. That’s why his season debut struggles came as a mild surprise: three earned runs allowed and a 1:2 BB/K ratio in just three innings on Sunday against Toronto. Of course, Grapefruit League games can’t be compared to the real deal, but they do help highlight some trends to watch. So Germán will hope to get back on track and demonstrate that he can get outs consistently, pound the strike zone, and miss bats with all of his pitches.

Archer’s career took a turn for the worse since he was traded from Tampa in a 2018 heist of the Pirates. He still has that bat-missing ability, but in his last season with Pittsburgh in 2019, he had a 5.19 ERA and a 5.02 FIP. Archer then missed 2020 recovering from the dreaded thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Although he has a 3.14 career ERA against the Yankees, his star has fallen. However, he is back in Tampa Bay, an organization known for getting the best out of their players, and with good health, he could bounce back. Archer was, however, rocked in his first start, conceding four runs (three earned) in just a couple of innings against Miami.

Sunday: Jordan Montgomery vs. TBD

To the contrary of what happened with Germán, Montgomery was fantastic in his first turn in the rotation, pitching six shutout innings against the Baltimore Orioles, with no walks and seven whiffs. He threw 73 pitches, 56 of which were in the strike zone. Montgomery was in complete control, and he induced 16 empty swings from rival hitters. The arrow is pointing up for the Yankees’ lefty, but he will face a tough offense on Sunday.

Tampa hasn’t announced a starter for Sunday’s series finale, but Michael Wacha is lined up to pitch that day and Kevin Cash indicated that he would most likely pitch him (perhaps also incorporating an opener). Wacha was able to cover five innings in his first start with the Rays, but he also conceded eight hits, gave away two bases on balls and allowed four earned runs. He did have six punchouts, and despite a high 6.62 ERA in 34 frames with the Mets last season, he posted his highest K/9 since his rookie year, at 9.79.